Province widening access to local, healthy, affordable school lunches

P.E.I. students will have a variety of options to buy freshly prepared and local lunches this fall — or even to not buy them and still enjoy them.

Pay-what-you-can program will charge a maximum of $5

Katelyn MacLean, school food manager and dietitian for the P.E.I. Department of Education, says the province's new school food program will offer healthy meals from local vendors. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

P.E.I. students will have a variety of options to buy local, freshly prepared lunches this fall.

Following pilot projects at a half dozen schools last winter, the Department of Education is taking a new program province-wide, to all schools from kindergarten to Grade 12 in English and French schools as well as alternate education sites and John J. Sark School on Lennox Island.

"Ensuring that every child has access to healthy, nutritious food not only ensures that all students have the fuel they need throughout the day to learn, but it also helps develop lifelong healthy eating habits," said Education Minister Brad Trivers in a news release.

Tyler Gallant, chef and owner of Gallant’s Shellfish and Seafood and Gallant’s and Co., has been one of the local vendors preparing meals for Island students in need of healthy food this spring and summer. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

"We really encourage a healthy, balanced plate with a quarter of your meal being protein, a quarter of your meal being whole grains, and half your plate being fruits and vegetables," said Katelyn MacLean, school food manager and dietitian with the P.E.I. Department of Education.

If there's a snack added, it would be something like a granola bar or a piece of fruit, she said. 

The Healthy School Lunch Program will use an online pay-what-you-can model, to a maximum of $5 per meal. Families will be able to order and pay for student lunches from local vendors, who will deliver them to schools each day. 

If parents feel they can pay $5 a meal, they can do so in any given week. If they are struggling in following weeks, they can pay $2 or even nothing at all. The children will receive the same meal and no one will know how much the family paid.

The Department of Education is finalizing a list of local vendors for the fall and that information will be shared with families soon.

Hot lunches from existing food vendors in schools will remain available, and the currently operating pilot projects will continue. "This will be kind of an added bonus on top of that, said MacLean.

Of course, families can continue to send children to school with bagged lunches from home as well. 

The program that has been delivering a healthy meal to many Island children seven days a week will continue until Aug. 28. (Submitted by Tyler Gallant)

Meanwhile, the food security program that began delivering healthy meals to students at home when schools closed in March is also continuing through July and August.

About 900 students have been participating in that program, said MacLean. That amounts to 73,000 meals so far over the 16 weeks.

More from CBC P.E.I.


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