LAC LA BICHE - For the past seven years, Aurora Middle School students have had access to nutritious fruit stations in their Lac La Biche school through the APPLE Schools project which promotes healthy eating, living and mental wellness. The program, which uses community partnerships as well as provincial and federal funding, costs roughly $2,000 a month to fund.
As the current school year began, the funding was running low as grant applications were processed, said Aurora Principal Conal Donovan, who is now very pleased to report that community support has helped to provide students with fresh fruit while they wait for additional grant funding.
“In the past year we’ve had grants that were able to cover costs of fruit bins for every homeroom in the school throughout the year, and this year when we started to continue the program, we didn’t have notice that our grants had come in. So when our parent's council found out about that, they made a donation for the fruit bins,” he said, alongside donations from the Kinettes club, Lac La Biche County councillor Charlyn Moore, and local grocery suppliers Bill and Kalan Britton, who delivered free fruit.
Recently, the program did receive $10,000 from the President’s Choice ‘Power Full Kids Eat Well’ program which will go a long way to provide the students at the school with fruits, programs and leadership skills to support a positive lifestyle for the year, said the school’s program coordinator Colleen Moghrabi.
“I think when kids are active, there are fewer issues in the classroom—for them. Providing nutritious foods for anybody who doesn't have it in their households regularly is a huge asset…we also put up bulletin boards around the school promoting health and wellness. It turns into a bit of a leadership group as well, and any student who wants to help there is no limitation to that.”
Apple Schools covers 74 different schools across the country, and when Aurora joined it was an opportunity to create a space for the students to not only access healthy snacks whenever they got hungry but to allow the students to engage in the preparation of the fruit while promoting responsibility throughout the process.
“It gives them a lot of ownership when they actually take part in the fruit itself. Seeing what goes into cleaning it, what it takes to go around the classrooms and collecting the bins and cleaning them,” Moghrabi said, adding that over the years, programming has created additional recreation activities to focus on physical and mental health through workshops and outdoor time throughout the school day.
“Once we became sustainable, after a period of three years, I just continued to do things within the school to help our community with wellness. It could be with ‘gratitude graffiti’ week where everyone sits down and says what they’re grateful for or getting Grade 7 and 8 students out on the playground to run games for the Grades 4,5, and 6 classes.”
Supporting student progress
Creating opportunities for the students to access nutrition is key to the development and future of the students, said Donovan.
“We know as educators that students can’t be in that optimal zone for learning unless they have good nutrition and good overall health… good nutrition, physical and mental health all contribute to them being successful and able to contribute in the future,” he said, praising the program, its coordination, and the community’s support.
The volunteering, contribution and citizenship values that students can and are learning from the initiatives of Apple Schools, the communities donations and Colleen Moghrabi’s leadership throughout the years, he said, is invaluable and will hopefully create youth who are inspired to give back as they get older.
“It means a lot that we have adults in the community who donate their time and funds in order to make good things happen in the community,” said the principal. “We want our students learning those values so when they become adults in this community, those good things can get passed on to the next generation of kids.”
For the remainder of the school year, Aurora officials are hopeful the $10,000 grant will sustain the fruit bins program and more. Moving forward, it's important to have community members inspire the youth and support their development in whatever way they can, Donovan says.
"We want to encourage our students and their families to make a difference wherever they can, not just the holiday season but throughout the year. I hope to see kids and parents pick up things like coaching, volunteering and giving their time to some cause greater than themselves — because that’s how we build communities.”