More food in classrooms having a positive impact in Nanaimo-Ladysmith schools

More food in classrooms having a positive impact in Nanaimo-Ladysmith schools
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Improved access to food in schools is making the learning day better for students at Gabriola Elementary, according to the principal.

“As a school administrator I’ve seen a lot more availability, and a lot more agency in being able to choose what am I getting,” Gabriola Elementary’s principal, Marc Daneault, said of how food programs are going at the school this year.

With funding from the provincial food infrastructure program, the Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools has made upgrades at the Woodlands school building including refrigeration, food prep tables, a commercial dishwasher and new sinks. Here, Nanaimo Ladysmith Schools Foundation prepares breakfasts and lunches for some schools and also has groceries like dairy products, breakfast items, apple sauce, oat bars and fruits and vegetables for pickup.

Each school decides how they want to utilize supports and get food to students, according to NLSF executive director Crystal Dennison. Since the beginning of October through February, 37,056 breakfasts and lunches have been provided through provincial Feeding Futures funding to elementary age students. Currently prepared breakfasts and lunches are delivered to 25 elementary schools in the district while Gabriola Elementary and Qwam Qwum Elementary have other arrangements.

READ MORE: Breakfast-lunch program rolling out to Nanaimo area elementary schools ‘as quickly as possible’

At Gabriola Elementary, a combination of pre-made sandwiches, made by People for a Healthy Community, and snack items collected at the Woodlands depot are available every day for students to access as needed.

This year, Daneault introduced coolers in each classroom so students wouldn’t have to walk to the office to pick up food from the school fridge as in years past.

“Having a bin inside the classroom full of plentiful food, that’s increased the accessibility,” Daneault said. “There’s no stigma – the kids are eating more and better.”

Daneault said teachers have noticed their students seem more engaged throughout the school day this year and attribute it to the increase in the amount of food available and strategies focused on accessibility to get it into bellies.

Volunteers are also a key part of the school food programs at GES, Daneault said. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, a family comes to the school to bake muffins and cook eggs. Daneault is eager to have other volunteers who could come in and bake items like cookies using ingredients the school can get at the Woodlands depot. Any interested individuals can contact the school at 250-247-9342.

SEE ALSO: Trudeau announces national school food program to feed 400,000 more kids per year

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder

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