Opposition parties concerned N.B. school food program misses the mark

Click to play video: 'N.B. to provide breakfast in schools until December'
N.B. to provide breakfast in schools until December
WATCH: They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and for many students in New Brunswick, it will now be easier to access. The province announced a new partnership to provide food in public schools until December. As Robert Lothian reports, members of the opposition fear it won't be enough – Sep 8, 2022

Expanded access to healthy foods in New Brunswick schools received mixed reactions from opposition critics who believe there’s more work to be done.

On Thursday, the province announced a $550,000 investment to, in partnership with Food Depot Alimentaire, provide students at 110 schools in four districts with healthy food until December.

“The products we provide are just the essential staples to deliver a breakfast program, so milk, cheese, eggs, bagels, bread, jam, butter,” said Stephane Sirois, executive director of Food Depot Alimentaire.

The program expanded on Tuesday to coincide with the start of the new school year. New Brunswickers have felt the pressure of record levels of inflation, causing more residents to experience food insecurity.

Read more: New Brunswick students begin new school year without COVID-19 restrictions

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“We have been facing a number of supply chain issues, as we all know, and inflation, and we need to make sure that we’re doing everything we can and we’re providing resources that make a real difference in the lives of the students who need it,” Trevor Holder, Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour told a small crowd at an elementary school in Havelock, N.B.

However, for Liberal Education Critic Benoit Bourque, the scarce details on the program and its limited access are cause for concern.

“The question is: Is it enough? My feeling is it’s not. I think we’ll probably need a bit more effort to make sure all of the kids have what they need in terms of food security,” said Bourque.

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The Kent South MLA admitted any effort to allow more students to be fed in a healthy manner is a positive.

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As part of it’s 2020 electoral campaign, the Higgs Progressive Conservative’s vowed to make food programs available in every school in the province starting in 2021-2022.

“I think that some schools are still falling through the cracks and are not covered, so I would like to see all those schools, and from what I’m seeing, it’s a step in the right direction but it’s not enough.”

Read more: Calls grow for universal lunch program as N.S. school year resumes

According to Green Party Education Critic Megan Mitton, students would be best served by a universal school food program.

“I want to see a long-term plan that would be implemented quickly for a universal school food program, speaking of Band-Aid solutions, this certainly looks like one of them, and so we need something more comprehensive that’s going to address the serious needs in all of our communities,” said Mitton.

However, with the province’s current system set to last at least until winter, officials aren’t ready to make substantial changes.

“Is it ever going to be a provincial program per se? I don’t know. I personally think it’s better that the province be there to support local partnerships,” said Holder.

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