Breakfast program funding increase on the menu this fall
Provincial budget will include an extra $1.1M for Nourish Nova Scotia to help schools
At Yarmouth Central School it's not uncommon for as many as 130 students to show up early for the elementary school's breakfast program.
For about 20 years, the program has run from just after 8 a.m. until just before 8:30 a.m. for any student wanting fresh fruit, milk, cereal, toast and yogurt. It is entirely run by volunteers.
The school's principal, Jared Purdy, said it's open to anyone, doubling as a social gathering for students and staff. Food from the program is also used to provide snacks and lunches for kids who might not have them.
But Central's program doesn't come cheap, with the bill approaching $600 in some months.
Like all school breakfast programs in Nova Scotia, Central gets funding from the province through Nourish Nova Scotia, a non-profit group that helps promote healthy eating. The money usually gets the school to January, Purdy said, but from there they require community support.
Fortunately, it's there in spades from local businesses and citizens.
"Whenever people come into the school, they're not asking about supplies, they're not asking about classroom materials, their first question is, 'How's your breakfast program doing. What can we do to help?'" Purdy said.
From 98 schools to 350 since 2005
Margo Riebe-Butt, the executive director of Nourish Nova Scotia, said provincial funding was never supposed to cover all program costs, but given there hasn't been an increase since 2005 when 98 schools had programs, new funding is desperately needed.
"Now we're over 350 [schools] and that budget has been the same," she said.
More help will be coming this autumn. An additional $1.1 million will be included in the provincial budget when it is introduced later this month, according to a Health Department spokesperson, bringing total funding to $1.975 million.
Riebe-Butt said the new money will allow Nourish to make sure schools that want a breakfast program can have one, and others operating at partial capacity can expand to five days a week.
"We know that kids come to school hungry each and every day," she said.
Looking to Ottawa for help
But even that new funding only goes so far. With the province and local communities contributing to programs around Nova Scotia, Riebe-Butt said the group is now advocating for a commitment from the federal government.
"That's the piece of the pie that's missing," she said.
"You have parents contributing, you have corporations, you have provincial governments, but the feds are not at the table at all."