The rollout of breakfasts and lunches to elementary schools in Nanaimo-Ladysmith made possible by provincial funding is adding more schools rapidly.
Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools has expanded infrastructure at Woodlands Secondary building for Nanaimo Ladysmith Schools Foundation to prepare individual breakfasts and lunches to be delivered to elementary schools in the district, NLPS staff told the business committee at its Oct. 11 meeting.
“It’s taking some time to get the infrastructure set up,” assistant superintendent for elementary programs, Jacquie Poulin, said; however three schools – Georgia Avenue, Fairview and Park Avenue – were onboarded at the time of the meeting with two expected to be added this week. The school district intends to add elementary schools to the daily program “as quickly as possible and as infrastructure allows,” director of communications, Dale Burgos, said.
“We really wanted to stay small so that we can make sure that we had the system we needed to have in place and the order forms and how the deliveries were going were going to work smoothly with the intent to add schools quite quickly,” Poulin said. The goal is to allow schools pre-order individually packaged breakfast and lunch items that students can take as needed.
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NLPS received nearly $1.7 million for the 2023-24 year from the B.C. government when it announced the ongoing feeding futures funding to all school districts earlier this year.
The breakfast and lunch program as of now is available to those who demonstrate need, the school district said, whether financial or supplemental such as a student forgetting to bring their lunch.
“I’m not aware of a directive that the provincial funding is supposed to be for everyone because I’m not sure how achievable that would be with the money we’ve been given,” Secretary-Treasurer Mark Walsh said in response to a trustee question about the intent of the program.
In previous updates to trustees, staff reports have said programs will operate differently at each school though have not detailed how existing programs at some schools run by external partners will connect with the new meals program. Currently, at Gabriola Elementary, People for a Healthy Community provides some food programs, including a pay-what-you-can hot lunch on Wednesdays in conjunction with the Gabriola Parent Advisory Committee; yogurt, fruit and oat jars for breakfast; and emergency lunch items and snacks available for students to pick up as needed.
Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder