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NLPS launches food hamper program

Northern Lights Public Schools launched their nutrition program, Food for Thought, on Tuesday, April 21 for students and families that may need the support during this time. File photo.

BONNYVILLE – Northern Lights Public Schools (NLPS) is providing their students with some Food for Thought.

The school division officially rolled out their nutrition program, Food for Thought, on Tuesday, April 21. Roughly 350 families across their schools will benefit from the initiative, which aims to provide food security for those that need a little extra assistance.

“What we’re doing is we’re preparing hampers for these students and their families,” explained associate superintendent Bill Driedger during the board of trustees April 22 meeting.

The bundles will include precooked meals or ingredients for a meal, along with non-perishable food items, canned goods, and items “for additional nutrition for more than the first day,” Driedger stated, adding they’re also hoping to provide more than just food through the hampers.

“Now that we have a container of food that’s going into a home, what else can we put in there to help those families? From additional learning resources to books to mental health and wellness activities to personal notes from the schools, teachers, and all that kind of stuff. We’re adding those to the hamper program as we move forward. Obviously, it’s for the nutrition, but it’s also for that relationship, connections, and support that we want to provide to these students and their families as well.”

When Food for Thought was launched, preparation was done on a school-by-school basis. Driedger said that’s going to change in the coming weeks.

“What we’re going to do is move towards having three or four major distribution centres where we’re trying to purchase resources in bulk hopefully as much as we possibly can and store it in certain schools and communities to start building our hampers from those centres at a later date as well. It’s just going to make things easier for us,” he detailed.

When school is in session, NLPS facilities have nutrition programs available for students who need it. When schools were closed in mid-March due to the coronavirus, the division had to come up with alternative plans if they wanted to continue providing meal assistance.

After receiving the go-ahead from Alberta Education to use the provincial nutrition funding, NLPS focused on developing a program that would get food to the families who need it the most.

“We asked all of our administrators in our schools to identify those students that will have the highest need and to contact those families and communicate with them,” Driedger said. “We also sent out notices to all of our parents as well letting them know that if there’s a need in this time, given the economy, to please let us know.”

The hampers will be dropped off by members of the division's transportation department on Tuesdays.

Board chair Arlene Hrynyk believes the program is a positive for their students.

“I think it’s great work,” she expressed. “I think it’s great to see it happening across the province and I really appreciate the little touches. It’s back to the connection and it’s really reminding those kids about the relationships that our staff have with them.”

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle

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