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Provincial grant boosts school food programs

Half-million-dollar grant to help with food, supplies and extracurricular fees
Coast Mountains School District 82 received a half-million-dollar grant to help families with the high cost of school supplies, education fees and food. (Staff/Terrace Standard)

Local families can look forward to better school food programs along with support for supplies and extracurricular activities thanks to a half-million-dollar windfall for Coast Mountains School District 82.

The one-time provincial grant of more than $500,000 aims to help make life more affordable to families facing financial challenges by targeting costs related to school supplies, education fees and food.

Aaron Callaghan, who took over the position of superintendent of schools at SD82 in August, said the school district is now beginning to roll out the funds after wrapping up consultations with families in October.

“I would say the vast majority of comments that came through our consultation was really centred around food security and so we’re building on existing food programming in our schools,” Callaghan said.

“So a large chunk of our half-million dollars, about 75 per cent of it, is going toward supporting school-based food programming and the support of our community partners.”

Those community partners include First Nations and not for profit organizations outside the school district like Starfish in Terrace, who Callaghan noted are already in the business of helping feed students.

“The nature of the fund along with all of the information that came through the consultation process was that feeding kids is really important through the school day,” he said.

“But we know kids also have to eat at night, and on the weekends and during holidays.”

Outgoing SD82 superintendent Janet Meyer raised concerns about nutrition this summer after the results of a student questionnaire showed below average sleep and nutrition at the Grade 8 level in particular.

Only 39 per cent of students who finished Grade 8 at coast mountain schools last year reported getting enough nutrition and sleep compared to just half of Grade 6 students going into Grade 7.

Callaghan is now discussing with schools about how the money can best support current food programs that include breakfast, lunch and snacks.

“There’s a focus on maintaining a standard of nutrition to ensure kids are not only fed but they’re nourished with healthy options,” said Callaghan.

“We’re looking towards subsidizing the lunch programs that exist and also in some cases to provide no cost healthy lunches for students, based on the programming that’s happening in schools. Some schools also have pantry programs, primarily at the secondary level, and so those are also programs that we’ll support financially.”

While September is “often a heavy month” for purchasing of school supplies, Callaghan pointed to costs and fees that come up all year long for children and their guardians.

“We’re in a spot where there’s still 80 per cent of our school year left and we want to have this money in the pockets of families that are in need. That’s what the fund is intended for.

“If it’s a field trip, if it’s a school related extracurricular, athletic or cultural activity, or clothing, we want to be able to support those families that are most in need so that their children can fully participate in that learning.”

There will be monthly reviews of how the money is used in case adjustments need to be made during the school year. SD82 covers Terrace, Kitimat, Stewart and New Hazelton.

READ MORE: Coast mountain students report lack of well-being, sleep and nutrition: Survey


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