School nutrition programs funded

FORT FRANCES—Three district schools received funding this week to help run their nutrition programs, which provide free, healthy snacks to all students.
Robert Moore, J.W. Walker, and Mine Centre schools all received funding from the Ministry of Children and Youth Services through the Northwestern Health Unit, which is the lead agency for the Student Nourishment Program (SNP).
The health unit has been responsible for the program since March, 2005.
The SNP aims to “alleviate in-school hunger and under-nutrition as part of a larger strategy to increase readiness to learn,” noted Saralyn Semeniuk, a health promoter with the health unit’s office in Dryden.
The goal of the program also is to increase knowledge of healthy living behaviours, and to increase the nutritional value of foods provided to children at school.
Schools apply for funding, which is distributed based on certain criteria, including universality and sustainability.
Each school’s nutrition program must be available to all students, and must show signs of support from the community in the form of local donations and fundraising.
Food being served must be nutritious and prepared in a safe environment, and a committee made up of staff, parents, students, and/or volunteers must oversee the program.
This committee also must commit to financial reporting requirements.
“Resource support and consultation is available to applicants lacking indication of ability to meet the above criteria in order to achieve eligibility,” Semeniuk said.
SNP funding can contribute up to a maximum of 15 percent of the total yearly food costs incurred by each program.
For the 2006/07 school year, $68,500 was earmarked for school meal and snack programs in the Kenora-Rainy River districts.
One of the most important elements to a successful school snack program is the people who make it work, Semeniuk stressed.
“The individuals who prepare and serve meals to the children and youth are often parents, teachers, and school principals who are not paid for their work,” she noted.
“Parental involvement and contributions are key elements of success.”
At Robert Moore, students also get involved in the process, coming in early every morning to help cut fruit and vegetables and arrange them on trays, then delivering them to each classroom before the first bell.
“Well-nourished children are more able to focus on tasks, better behaved, less absent from school, and have higher self-esteem,” Semeniuk noted.
(Fort Frances Times)