Submitted by Upper Canada Leger Centre for Education and Training (UCLCET)
School buildings and student programming sites have become more than just a destination for children and youth to socialize and engage in learning; amongst the many other roles these sites play in our communities, for many children they have also become an important source of nutritious food.
Throughout this very different school year, student nutrition programs across Eastern Ontario have found unique and creative ways to continue to fulfill this role.
More than 200 schools and youth agencies throughout the counties of Prescott Russell, Stormont Dundas & Glengarry, Leeds & Grenville and Renfrew provided breakfast and snack programs for students in the 2020-21 school year.
In typical times, healthy food is offered by these programs at no cost to students through food bins, buffet settings or student self-preparation areas. This year student nutrition programs in schools could only offer pre-packaged individual servings, with strict health guidelines for the preparation and distribution of foods.
School building closures throughout the year, and the increased number of remote learners created additional challenges for offering nutritious foods to all students.
“School staff, teachers and administrators have gone above and beyond to ensure students continue to have access to nutritious foods for better learning outcomes in this unique year,” explains UCLCET Student Nutrition Program Manager, Jennifer Cuillerier.
“To support families with increased food costs related to at home learning, they’ve helped to distribute vouchers redeemable for healthy foods to more than 12,000 students.”
“Local food banks have also played an important role in ensuring access to healthy foods for students this year,” added Cuillerier.
“Through the generosity of our funding partners, food producers, and distributors we partnered with food banks that met the well-established service and delivery models and standards established by Feed Ontario, to provide healthy food to families with school-age children and youth in our communities.”
“Traditional service models have not been possible, but student nutrition programs have still reached more than 40,000 students this year while ensuring every safety precaution is taken,” Matthew Raby, UCLCET Executive Director noted.
“Schools and communities have really come together to make sure we are still getting to students with healthy food options to promote better learning, wherever they may be learning. It has been a truly remarkable response and through this we have a lot of optimism for the future.”
Upper Canada Leger Centre for Education and Training (UCLCET) is a community-focused organization that seeks to find innovative ways to spearhead unique projects supporting education, diversity, health and well-being in Eastern Ontario.
UCLCET is responsible for distributing financial support for student nutrition programs from the provincial Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, among other funding partners, food producers and distributors.