John Diefenbaker School wins Mosaic School Nutrition Challenge

John Diefenbaker School in Prince Albert was recently awarded $15,000 as one of 10 schools selected in this year’s Mosaic School Nutrition Challenge.

The funding will allow the school to purchase commercial appliances, expand Practical and Applied Arts cooking programs and implement student cooking classes. The school is converting an underused space in into a new kitchen and learning area.

Principal Jenna Cross said the project has been in the works for several years.

“I think we've had this plan in place for a while now, (and) really coming to realization or fulfillment here in the second-half of this school year,” Cross said. “we started really working hard on it December, (and) January, but this is that part where we're the actualization of it coming to reality.”

The grant means that the school can start having the kitchen ready for next fall as opposed to January of next year. Vice Principal Angela Yeaman said that the idea was like a four year dream.

"The conversation probably started with the division four or five years ago,” she said.

"That's how big of a difference this money means. When you are thinking about the impact that it's going to have on our kids and families and even our staff, for what they're going to be able to offer in our building, the impact is huge.”

Yeaman said the money really helps to alleviate funding gaps. She said the school division is great with the facilities part as renovations on the space have already begun

“They've done the demo. They're doing the fabrication of the cabinets. All that is (the) division, but it's the outfitting piece that we needed to figure out a plan for,” she explained.

"The money to do the commercial appliances, to do the tables and chairs, to do the pots and pans. Otherwise we'll just have a blank shell that we can't utilize because it won't have the stuff in it to do the programming.”

The new space will be an anchor for nutrition programming. The school will be able to run their breakfast program, Canteen Friday program, Feeding Our Futures program and school-wide Christmas Dinner from the space. “The food can be stored there. The prep can be there, the delivery can come out of there,” Yeaman said.

Cross said the renovations will allow other spaces not being used for what they were designed for to be used properly.

The renovated space will include a full kitchen, storage, and a learning space in the kitchen. Students currently help distribute lunches and help serve canteen. With the new space, everything can be stored in one area and canteen is done from tables in the library.

Cross said that new space will also support staff because everything will be in a centralized location.

“Having it in one location where it's really organized well, everybody will understand the purpose and what it's there for, that's going to help us run more efficiently too,” Cross said. “That's huge in terms of efficiency in a building.”

Yeaman, did the application for the school. She said she was not aware of how many applications the program gets.

"I wouldn't say there isn't an element of pleasant surprise when you receive it. We put a lot of thought into the application,” she said.

Yeaman said that without the division being ready to do the renovations the school could not have a plan in place to execute the grant portion. Yeaman said it was a combination of having a plan and timing.

"We've thought about applying in the past, but the timing wasn't right because you have to also be ready to execute,” she added.

The funding was a welcome addition for the school, but Yeaman explained said it only covers a portion of their costs. She said that they can fundraising and looking for community support was the next step.

"We're probably still about $15,000 short as far as fully funding so that we can start the school year next fall with a well provisioned, ready to go kitchen,” she explained.

"We have a little bit of some school based money … and we're going to the community (to see if) there are businesses in the Community or individuals in the Community that would come alongside the grant to help JD have a well provisioned kitchen to start the school year.

Cross said the education factor was also important because teachers will be able to offer a greater number of unique learning activities in the space.

“There's going to be a lot more food based type learning activities provided through either courses and some of our different groups that we have going on in the school, like the ability to now be able to teach kids how to prepare food,” she said.

Cross added that there will be a large impact to the community because children will learn food preparation.

"That's a huge factor, to think about that with our older kids,” she said. “If they learn to do a lot more of that food prep, what does it mean beyond the walls of this school.

“That's something that we can now support that learning with as well, so I think that's a huge piece of this too,” she added.

They both thanked Mosaic and the SSBA for the funding

"This really does make it possible, and it makes it possible a lot sooner than we possibly anticipated, so we're really thankful for that,” Cross said.

“Thank you to our school division. This wouldn't be possible without the support of the school division,” Yeaman added.

Mosaic School Nutrition Challenge is a grassroots initiative to help improve student nutrition. The program, formerly known as the Mosaic Extreme School Makeover Challenge, began in 2006.

For the total of $150,000 in prizes provided by Mosaic, schools from across the province submitted their projects to compete. Schools receiving grants this year are governed by the Horizon, Ile-a-la Crosse, North East, Prairie Spirit, Prairie Valley, Regina Catholic, Regina Public, Saskatchewan Rivers, and Saskatoon Public school boards and the Meadow Lake Tribal Council.

This program began in 2006 to encourage grassroots initiatives to help improve student nutrition.

“We see amazing ideas and initiatives continue to come forward in this 18th year of the Mosaic Challenge,” Jaimie Smith-Windsor, president of the SSBA said in a release. “We are grateful for Mosaic’s ongoing commitment.”

Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald