New healthy food pilot program coming to some P.E.I. schools Monday
'We are incorporating both animal proteins and plant-based proteins into our menu'
Starting Monday, a new healthy food program will be rolling out at some P.E.I. schools.
The pilot projects are the first step in the province's promise to have a lunch program in place for students across the Island next fall.
Students at Somerset Consolidated School and Amherst Cove got a taste Friday of what will be on the menu in the future.
Things like pizza, meat and vegetarian shepherd's pie, burrito bowls and salad wraps.
"At least it's all quality stuff," said 11-year-old Oliver MacFarlane who is in Grade 5 at Somerset Consolidated School.
"I liked the vegetarian shepherd's pie because it had a little bit of green in there," Oliver said. "It added a little bit of a green taste and stuff and I really liked that."
He said he is excited for the program to start next week.
The program in the Kinkora family of schools is one of two pilot programs starting next week. Those schools are testing out what is called the hub model.
Food will be prepared at nearby Kinkora Regional High School, and delivered to the two elementary schools.
It's all being overseen by dietitian Katelyn MacLean, who is also the school food co-ordinator with the Public Schools Branch.
The exact food guidelines for the program are still being finalized, but the driving force is Canada's food guide, MacLean said.
"So we want half of our plate to be fruits and vegetables, a quarter of our plate to be whole grain, and a quarter of our plate to be protein," she said. "So we are incorporating both animal proteins and plant-based proteins into our menu."
The food looks incredible… the children were digging right in.— Education Minister Brad Trivers
Starting Monday, École Pierre-Chiasson and West Kent Elementary will test out a different model. They will have food served by private contractors, with Montague Regional High School doing the same in a few weeks.
Organizers say there is a focus not just on healthy foods, but also reducing waste and sourcing food locally.
The pilot programs will be offered on a pay-what-you-can model with a maximum price of $5 per day.
'Not really in our budget'
There have been calls from MLAs on a legislative standing committee to make the program completely free next year, but Education Minister Brad Trivers said that is not part of the plan.
"Based on the amount of money it would take … that's not really in our budget," he said. "I'm not saying that it will never happen in the future, but really we're going with the pay-what-you-can model."
Trivers said he thinks Island parents want to look after their children and pay for them themselves.
"They're the ones responsible. And so if they have the money to pay, they're going to pay, and that helps pay for the program," he said.
Trivers said with the pay-what-you-can model parents or guardians can pay anywhere up to a maximum of $5, so no student who wants lunch will be turned away.
"The food looks incredible… the children were digging right in," Trivers said.
The pilot project will help determine what the program will look like across P.E.I. next school year, Trivers said.
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With files from Sarah MacMillan