Education minister promotes nutrition at HPE

Education Minister David Eggen, left, chats with kindergarten students Lexi Flett, centre, and Sophia Willier.

Richard Froese
South Peace News
High Prairie Elementary School welcomed the education minister Nov. 29, just weeks after the school and school division were chosen to participate in a nutrition pilot project.

“I was very interested to see how they make choices,” says Education Minister David Eggen, who ate a healthy lunch with Grade 6 students.

High Prairie School Division was selected as one of 14 Alberta school divisions to participate in the pilot program to promote nutrition to young students.

Locally, HPE is one of 32 schools participating in the program that launched Nov. 14.

“We are very excited about the pilot project,” Eggen says.
“I can see creativity already happening in High Prairie and other schools, which tells us that there’s lot of enthusiasm for the program.”
“Lots of ideas have already been created and students can also make healthy choices when they go to the grocery store.”

Schools are required to meet three basic standards for the program. They have to follow the Alberta Nutrition Guide and Alberta Health Services serving standards, and develop curriculum around nutrition.

Freson Bros. is a key partner in the local project, as the supplier of nutritional products to provide healthy meals to students who require them.

“We want to support the community that supports us,” general manager Matt Lovsin says.

With a high number of students from outside the town and in rural areas and First Nations communities, those partnerships are also vital, Eggen says.

“High Prairie School Division has a good reputation of working with First Nations, which is also a priority of the provincial government,” Eggen says.

With $250,000 for the pilot project at HPE and Ecole Routhier in Falher, HPSD will also purchase commercial kitchen equipment for HPE to facilitate and potentially expand the program.

HPE principal Mitch Hammond is pleased that the pilot program creates another opportunity for students to get nutrition.

“It’s an extension of what the school already does with our breakfast program, to provide healthy food to students who need it,” Hammond says.

Education leaders hope the program provides a solid foundation for students in life.

“While the immediate effect of the program will be felt in the classroom, we also want to build students’ capacity for lifelong healthy eating and nutrition,” Eggen says in a news release.

“It’s hard to learn when you’re hungry.
“Research clearly shows that students who have a healthy and nutritious diet have more energy and are able to better focus in class.”

When the pilot project concludes at the end of the school year in June, the minister will work with participating schools and school divisions, students, teachers, and parents to move forward with best practices.

With $3.5 allotted for the pilot project, he says funding will increase to $10 million for 2017-18, and $20 million.

Results will help inform decisions regarding nutrition programs for schools across the province in 2017-18.

Grade 6 students enjoy a nutritious lunch with Education Minister David Eggen. In the front row, left-right, are Emily Fortin, Eggen, Abby Arams, and Zack Shantz. In the back row, left-right, are HPE health champion teacher Melissa Isaac, HPE wellness coach Jessie Johnson, Freson Bros. general manager Matt Lovsin, a program partner, and High Prairie School Division Supt. Laura Poloz.

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