Province delays school food program planned for fall 2019
Education minister blames timing of election, says he's working on future program
A school food program promised for nine Island schools this fall won't be going ahead as planned.
Last November, the province announced plans for a healthy school food pilot. The aim was to get locally produced, healthy options in school cafeterias, using centralized kitchens.
Education Minister Brad Trivers said the program won't happen in September — and his department is looking into options for the future.
"It's being delayed, and it may be changed," Trivers said.
Blames timing of election
The food program was brought up during question period Friday by Liberal MLA Heath MacDonald, who asked for an update on the plans — and questioned why the program is being delayed.
"We all know poor diet is associated with poor school performance. I've heard the minister talk about the breakfast program when I was on that side of the House [in government], how concerned he was," MacDonald said.
"This is one of the most important programs that could be involved in the school system for some time, and some time to come."
Trivers blamed the timing of the election as a main reason for the delay. Without a budget, work was put on hold, and he said the timelines are now too tight to get everything ready in time — such as setting up non-profits to co-ordinate the program.
"It's really unfortunate with how the former administration, the timing of when they decided to call the election. It's impacted this program, it's impacted the hiring of teachers in our schools. It's been a real, real pain to deal with," Trivers said.
Program still possible for some schools
Trivers said even if the timing of the election hadn't been an issue, the program may not have gone forward as planned.
"I would say that the tendency would be probably we would want to review exactly how that program was being laid out, exactly how it was going to be funded. Because there were a couple of choices on how to do that," Trivers told CBC.
Three of the nine Island schools originally slated for the project could still see it go ahead later in the school year, as they aren't tied to contracts with food providers like the other six schools.
However, Trivers said those schools would "have to be creative" to secure funding — as the province does not have funding in place to pay for it all.
Working on a new plan
Despite the delay, Trivers said student nutrition is a priority for him, and he does plan to go ahead with a school food program down the road — though it may be different from the Liberal plan.
"I would say that the majority of stakeholders in the school food programs are maybe a little disappointed that we had to delay, but I think they're going to be very happy we're coming up with a result that's going to be the best for students that will use the school food program, as well as best for the taxpayers of Prince Edward Island."