Nutrition program a go at DYS

The hot lunch nutrition program proposed earlier this year for students at Donald Young School in Emo is moving ahead.
Beginning the week of Sept. 18, students there will be able to purchase healthy meals every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
“A number of local businesses have come on board offering financial assistance to reduce the cost of the meals,” noted Anne Marie Vanderaa, a member of the student nourishment committee at DYS.
It was estimated the cost to provide lunch to 170 students three days a week for the entire school year would be $58,140, or $3 per day per student.
But with an additional $5,000 in funding from the township and a provincial grant, the committee has been able to reduce that cost to $2.50.
And it hopes more funds can be raised to further decrease the price to just $2.
“We don’t want finances to inhibit anyone from not receiving lunch,” noted Vanderaa, who also is a public health nurse with the Northwestern Health Unit and a mother.
“We want to ensure that all students have the opportunity to participate,” she stressed.
Vanderaa indicated if a family requires assistance with funding, they should contact the school’s principal, Lucinda Meyers, or herself.
“We’ll keep all the information in confidence, but we’ll try to support them,” she remarked.
“Basically what we’re trying to share with the parents is that well-nourished students can concentrate better, retain and apply information more effectively, [and] show more positive behaviours when they are better nourished,” she added.
“It’s a great opportunity for the kids,” echoed Meyers. “All the research has shown that good nutrition is vital to learning.
“Sometimes kids are coming to school without breakfast, so if we can provide a hot lunch that is going to meet their needs, than that’s a bonus,” she said.
So far, the menu consists of some healthy soups, subs, macaroni and cheese from scratch, carrot sticks, celery sticks, and seasonal fruit, as well as sloppy joes made with lean ground beef and served on whole wheat buns.
“Number one is nourishment and number two is to be kid-friendly,” stressed Vanderaa. “It’s off to a great start. We’ve been very fortunate with the community—they’ve really supported us quite a bit.”
Cloverleaf Grocery in Emo has become one of the main partners in the endeavour by providing milk, free of charge, for every lunch that is purchased. And several staff members there have offered to participate in preparing a majority of the meals, as well.
“It’s just a wonderful opportunity and we really appreciate the support of the community because they have been amazing,” Meyers stressed.
Vanderaa said the meals will be ordered two weeks in advance, so the volunteers will know exactly how many lunches will need to be prepared.
“And it will all be organized according to the classrooms, so it should be like a production line,” she continued, noting there hopefully will be a new menu throughout the year—both to revisit popular items and add new ones as time goes on.
“The focus is on healthy choices, healthy meals,” Vanderaa remarked. “We want to make it accessible to everyone, we want it to be nutritious, and we’re going to evaluate it and get feedback from the parents and kids.”
Both Vanderaa and Meyers expect the new lunch program to go over well.
“It will help the parents who have a hectic work schedule and it will be great for the kids to have some hot meals available, especially with the upcoming fall and winter months,” said Vanderaa.
“But I think it will be a period of adjustment—a new venture for us, for sure—and they’ll have to get used to not having the hotdogs and things like that.”
“We’ve had a hot lunch program here for a number of years, but the menu will be a little different than what they are used to seeing,” agreed Meyers.
“But once parents get used to it and realize the nutrition value in it, I think it will be good.”
Vanderaa noted the hotdogs, chicken nuggets, and frozen pizzas students were purchasing in the past are just not healthy enough.
“Some of the products we will use will be healthier,” she said. “We’ll make grilled cheese, but it will be with the Wonder Plus, which has the goodness of whole wheat, and real cheese instead of processed cheese.
“So the meals will either be made from scratch or by using more wholesome foods.”
The committee will assess the possibility of acquiring more grants, and still is looking for local businesses to get involved.
It also is looking for parent volunteers to help deliver the lunches to the classrooms.
“We’re asking people to be patient and, of course, welcome feedback and suggestions,” Vanderaa said.
Anyone else interested in supporting or learning more about the program can contact her at 482-2211.