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Funding confirmed for Alberta school nutrition program

WATCH ABOVE: Ahead of the provincial election, Alberta's education minister has confirmed the UCP government will fund the school nutrition program. Vinesh Pratap reports.

In advance of the provincial budget next month, the province’s education minister shared some good news on Monday.

“I am happy to say that our government is going to continue with the nutrition funding for this upcoming school year,” Education Minister Adriana LaGrange told Global News.

The School Nutrition Program was introduced by the previous NDP government for the 2016/2017 school year, initially with $3.5 million in funding.

READ MORE: Alberta schools battle budgets as future of nutrition grant remains unclear

It immediately received top grades from kids, parents and caregivers.

“A lot of kids weren’t getting breakfast in the morning or they didn’t have enough food for lunch, because this is a low-income area,” Beatrix Letendre indicated Monday afternoon, before picking up her granddaughter at St. Catherine school, north of downtown Edmonton.

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The program expanded in subsequent years with $15.5 million allocated in the 2018 budget.

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

But when the UCP took power earlier this year, questions were raised about all previous funding commitments.

“This was one line item that I really wanted to ensure remained within the budget.”

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The education minister says she pushed for the continuation of the program at caucus.

“I really understand how good nutrition impacts our children and so, it was very important to me to bring that forward and I had the full support of my colleagues.”

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

In Edmonton, four Catholic schools and 22 public schools take part in the program.

“Edmonton Public Schools and our board are pleased to hear the government will be maintaining funding for the school nutrition program for the 2019-2020 school year,” EPSB chair Trisha Estabrooks said in a statement.

“Nutrition and learning go hand in hand and in our division, there are four schools with 1,051 students who benefit from this government-funded school nutrition program,” Laura Thibert, board chair of Edmonton Catholic Schools, replied in another statement.

It’s estimated the program serves about 30,000 students across the province.

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