Breakfast programs in N.B. schools get $550,000 boost

·3 min read
Stephane Sirois, executive director of the Food Depot Alimentaire, said this funding was a long time coming. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC - image credit)
Stephane Sirois, executive director of the Food Depot Alimentaire, said this funding was a long time coming. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC - image credit)

Children at up to 110 schools in the province will now have access to more healthy foods through a partnership between the government and the Food Depot Alimentaire, a non-profit food distribution group.

Education Minister Trevor Holder announced Thursday the government is providing up to $550,000 for school breakfast programs.

"We need to make sure that we're doing everything that we can, and that we're providing resources that make a real difference in the lives of the students who need it," said Holder during a news conference.

Stephane Sirois, executive director of the Food Depot Alimentaire, said this was a long time coming.

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CBC

He said the depot, based in Moncton, was already serving 50 schools in several areas of of the province, but now can more than double that number.

"It's important that students start the day with some food in their bellies," said Sirois. "A lot of schools were already doing some sort of programming but this brings a whole lot of support into it."

The foods provided will include fresh fruit, protein and grains.

Breakfast Club of Canada also works with Food Depot Alimentaire. Judith Barry, co-founder of the organization, said the club has supported schools for 27 years with quality breakfast programs at schools across the country.

"We are really happy that the New Brunswick government moved forward with leveraging that model to ensure we can accelerate its impact," she said.

Barry said the club provides the depot with some funding, guidance related to roll-out and help with food procurement and shipments.

CBC
CBC

She said they'll also be supporting the individual schools and districts so they can feel comfortable implementing and running the programs.

The program will utilize local food from farms which aligns with the provincial government's local food and beverages strategy, according to the government's news release.

Barry said it's important to encourage locally-sourced products. She said negotiations with New Brunswick farmers are easy because they want the children in the province to be fed, especially with locally-grown goods.

"It's accessible and it's only a matter of integrating it into practice."

The breakfast programs are set up to be free of stigma — Sirois said all children are welcome to participate without needing to show proof of need. There shouldn't be any barriers to accessing food, he said.

The participating schools were chosen based on their location, Sirois said, because of proximity to other places the depot already delivers, such as food banks.

Sirois said the goal is to keep increasing to reach every school in the province, but to do that, their fleets would need to be expanded and more distribution partnerships secured.

The New Brunswick government said the funding will cover food supply in schools until December, and said it will work with the Food Depot Alimentaire to ensure funding for the rest of the school year.

CBC
CBC

Other partners, including the Brewer Foundation, are providing support. Sirois said the Brewer Foundation's contribution will act as a grant for schools that need supplies to operate breakfast service, like fridges or toasters.

Sirois said the depot estimated a cost of around $70 per student for the whole school year for the 25,000 students included in the program.

He said this program is crucial. He said the last year has shown a 30 per cent increase in food bank visits across the province.

"This will help supplement if parents are struggling at home to put food on the table," said Sirois.