Money is the challenge to fresh, healthy food in schools: association

The province's school lunch association says the biggest challenge to getting fresh produce in schools is funding.
Cyril Hayden, chair of the board for the School Lunch Association, says a new salad bar at St. Bonaventure's is a great idea, but that school was awarded a grant and fresh produce for students is expensive. (CBC)

The head of the organization that aims to put nutritious lunches in schools each day says the biggest challenge with obtaining fresh produce involves something else that's green. 

Money is the greatest obstacle for fully supplying local schools, says Cyril Hayden, who chairs the board of the School Lunch Association. 

Hayden was reacting to the salad bar launched this week at St. Bonaventure's College in St. John's, which won a grant for the project from Farm to Cafeteria Canada.

Hayden said something similar would be ideal for all schools, but there simply is not enough cash available.

"It all comes down to money, money, money, money," he told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.

For the association's budget of $1.6 million, Hayden said government contributes $100,000 and the remainder needs to be raised by the association and schools.

"Believe me it is very, very difficult to raise that kind of money," Hayden said in an interview. "I would like personally to see more fruit, for example, in our menu — a lot more fruit in our menu, but it's again cost."

The salad bar, which features local produce, was able to be launched after St. Bonaventure's was awarded a grant to cover those costs, an initiative Hayden praised.

He added starting children on healthy eating habits will help save health care costs down the road.

According to Hayden, the association tries to introduce as much fresh produce into the program as possible, but the cost of food limits what can be made available.

The group is planning to reach out to government in an attempt to get more funding.

"We've had communications with the Confederation Building and they're trying to put a team together to meet with us hopefully we will be successful in changing … a little more to help us out."

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