EDMONTON — Alberta is expanding its school food program.
It announced today that the program, which ensures students receive a meal or snack each day, will be in every publicly funded school board in the 2017-18 school year.
School boards must demonstrate how their program adheres to the Alberta Nutrition Guidelines for Children and Youth and are required to include a nutrition education component as part of the program.
The Alberta government introduced the program in the fall of 2016 in 14 school boards at a total cost of $3.5 million.
The province says right now 5,000 students in 33 Alberta schools are receiving a meal or snack each day.
Premier Rachel Notley says it's well-known that students can't focus in class if they have an empty stomach.
"Giving students access to a daily nutritious meal not only ensures they have the fuel they need to get through the school day, it also helps develop the skills that ensure lifelong healthy nutrition," Notley said in a news release.
Culinary arts students at J.A. Williams high school prepare and deliver lunches to students at Vera M. Welsh elementary school, giving the high school students credits and valuable work experience.
Medicine Hat School District is working with a biology professor from the local college to augment the science curriculum through a "seed-to-table" program. The board has also established a partnership with a local greenhouse to build garden towers in the school.
High Prairie School Division has established partnerships with local grocers, allowing schools to purchase produce at a very reasonable cost.
In Red Deer, a parent council member is co-ordinating the program and English as a second language students are serving the meals so they can practise their language skills.
"It's been incredible to witness the unique and innovative approaches that school boards have taken to implement the program and the resulting impact it is having in the classroom," said Education Minister David Eggen.
The Canadian Press