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Alberta’s school meal program expands to every board in province

Click to play video: 'Alberta School Nutrition program expanded to classrooms across the province' Alberta School Nutrition program expanded to classrooms across the province
WATCH ABOVE: The Alberta government is expanding its School Nutrition Program to every board - to not only make sure kids don't go hungry by providing meals and snacks, but to also educate them on healthy eating. Annie McKitrick, parliamentary secretary to the minister of education, explains how the program works – Mar 6, 2018

As promised, the Alberta NDP expanded its school nutrition program to every school board in the province for the 2017-18 school year.

READ MORE: All publicly funded school boards will have access to Alberta school meal program 

The program was introduced as a pilot last year ($3.5 million) and has now been expanded ($10 million in the 2017 provincial budget). Premier Rachel Notley announced the pilot program would be rolled out right across the province in April.

During the pilot, students in 33 schools received a healthy meal or snack daily.

READ MORE: Calgary school lunch program sees spike in users due to poor economy 

“This program has been overwhelmingly positive in the communities where it’s already been introduced, and the results are quite impressive,” Education Minister David Eggen said. “We’ve seen improved student attendance, a decrease in negative behaviour and an increased sense of healthy food choices among students.”

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The 14 school boards that participated in the pilot are each receiving $250,000 in grant funding for the 2017-18 school year. The remaining 48 school boards are each receiving $141,000 in grant funding to implement the program in 2017-18.

READ MORE: ‘It’s hard to learn when you’re hungry’: Alberta launches school nutrition program 

“Two Edmonton public schools are part of the nutrition program again this school year,” said Nancy Petersen, a managing director with Edmonton Public Schools. “Students at both Norwood Elementary and Inglewood Elementary are benefiting from the program through access to healthy food choices. The program is having a positive impact on students’ grades, health and overall well-being, and increasing their understanding of healthy eating and nutrition.”

READ MORE: Alberta NDP promises to reduce class sizes, create school lunch program

Parents said having a nutritious meal provided to kids every day can help alleviate the pressure on families.

“Some friends of ours who have four kids — it’s hard to send four meals to school,” Kristy McLaren said on April 5. “That’s a huge financial impact for them to have this program.”

School boards must demonstrate how their program adheres to the Alberta Nutrition Guidelines for Children and Youth and are required to include a nutrition education component as part of the program.

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