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Universal lunch to be offered at 5 elementary schools in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

The program will offer students a variety of hot and cold lunches two days a week – stigma free
The premium lunch program offered at schools where lunches are served in individual containers, or buffet style, shown in this picture. “Eric Langton and Glenwood love to serve food this way as it allows for adjustment based on appetite,” said Jeannie Harnett, program manager of community connections and healthy living/food security with SD42 .

Lunch will no longer be a meal skipped by students in the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows School District.

Starting in September, a universal meal program is going to be offered – new this year – in five elementary schools across the school district.

The schools receiving the lunches will be Harry Hooge Elementary, Eric Langton Elementary, Highland Park Elementary, Glenwood Elementary, and Albion Elementary.

“That’s the one we are quite excited about,” said Jeannie Harnett, program manager of community connections and healthy living/food security with SD42, as she talked about the various school food programs being offered this coming school year.

The program will offer students a variety of hot and cold lunches two days a week.

Every single student will have access to the universal meal program, and families who are able to pay, can pay based on capacity.

Last year the cost of a meal was $3 per person or it was free if a family indicated they could not afford that amount.

For targeted students – those who have been recognized by the district as struggling financially – they will receive free meals.

Harnett said those students are automatically enrolled in the universal meal program.

A third-party service provider, who has yet to be determined, will bring lunches to the schools.

Other programs include the Salvation Army’s bagged lunch program for students in need. Those lunches consist of a sandwich, a drink, a piece of fruit, and a treat or dessert.

“We wanted to try to create a little bit more diversity so kids that are reliant on schools to provide that lunch could have maybe some hot meals,” said Harnett.

“Our intent really is to be able to provide families with an option that is affordable because we are recognizing in these times every family is definitely finding it much more difficult to make ends meet,” she added – noting that the universal meal program will be provided to students in a stigma-free fashion and will look exactly the same.

Variations will also be provided for vegetarian lunch options or Halal options, in addition to accommodations made for medical conditions like celiac disease or diabetes – so the lunch is accessible to as many students as possible, said Harnett.

So after a successful pilot project last year the school district will be continuing the Premium Lunch Program.

This program is going to be offered in the replacement of the lunches from the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army will do three days a week and the district will cover two days a week.

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge food bank asking for more support for school meal programs

“It is going to give the students some diversity because most of the meals they receive are hot meals,” said Harnett.

Last year, she said, it was Humble Roots who provided the service to the district and the children always had a lunch that consisted of a protein, a grain, and at least one fruit or vegetable each meal time – in addition to a cookie or some form of treat.

All elementary school children in need in the district, Harnett promised, will receive a lunch five days a week between those two programs.

“Our really vulnerable schools, those five schools will have universal meal twice a week – and that’s open for everyone. Our students who are really in need, they will have the premium lunch twice a week and Salvation Army once a week,” Harnett explained.

All the other schools will have the premium lunch twice a week and then the Salvation Army three days a week for students who are need of that support, she further explained.

ALSO: $214M coming to B.C. school districts to create, expand food programs

Breakfast and snack programs will be run internally by each school, said Harnett. Schools can apply to receive funding from the Feeding Futures Food School Program Fund to support those internal programs.

Every school, she said, will offer some form of a breakfast program and will have the autonomy to offer what works best for their school community.

All schools in the district – including secondary schools – have a snack program in place where students can access snacks for free.

“We were happy to see that there is that shift towards having food in schools is a normal experience and it’s available for everyone,” said Harnett.

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Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

I got my start with Black Press Media in 2003 as a photojournalist.
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