By Mabell, Dave on July 17, 2019.
More Lethbridge school children will be feeling hunger pains this fall.
Public school officials say funding cuts by the United Conservative government will hit local schools’ attempts to help kids from low-income families.
Ten Lethbridge School District 51 schools received funding through the provincial program over the last year, they report. Based on a $252,000 “nutrition grant” from Alberta Education, students in six elementary schools, all three middle schools and one high school were assisted.
Students have difficulty learning when there’s nothing to eat before school, educators point out.
“The potential loss of our school nutrition grant will certainly have an impact throughout the district,” says spokesperson Garrett Simmons.
“We had 10 schools access grant funding, for a wide variety of initiatives, and a few of those schools offered universal breakfast programs with those funds.”
The provincial government grant had a positive impact on learners “throughout the district, at virtually all grade levels,” he adds.
And the funds led to community collaborations, Simmons adds.
“Lethbridge schools also benefited from some very meaningful community partnerships to help with things such as kitchen renovations, along with assistance in providing food items.”
School officials were also able to create a fruit and vegetable “enhancement program,” providing greater nutrition in breakfast and lunch programs.
“Throughout the year, schools received a fruit or vegetable delivery once a month to support and enhance nutritious eating and programming for students,” he reports. “That initiative was very well received by our students.”
Some funds were also earmarked for purchase of small kitchen appliances and larger items like freezers and fridges, for more sustainable nutrition programs. The grant also supported healthy snacks and a fruit and vegetable baking program, along with other breakfast and lunch programs as decided at each school.
Unless the Jason Kenney government restores that support, Lethbridge schools may have to rely on the generosity of local individuals and organizations.
Though classes resume after Labour Day, Kenney has announced the legislature won’t resume sitting until late October – with budget announcements later still.
Says Simmons, “A best-case budget would certainly include the nutrition grant, given the need that exists in the city to support the health and well-being of students.”
Holy Spirit school officials were not available for comment on their schools’ needs.
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