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'It would be a huge gift': How new national lunch program could impact families


A healthy school environment is dependent on children having access to healthy food at school.

That's according to Nourish Nova Scotia, a non-profit organization. Access to a healthy meal can also help in other ways.

"As a mom who gets up still most mornings and has to think about what is my kid taking to school for lunch today, it would be a huge gift to many parents, whether they are stretched for time or whether they are stretched for money to have their kids eating at school," said Lisa Roberts, Nourish Nova Scotia executive director.

On Monday, the federal government announced a $1 billion national school food program. The funding will be included in the upcoming budget. Canada is the only G7 country without a program like this.

Nourish Nova Scotia has been calling for something like it for a long time.

Roberts says research shows a lunch program could reduce grocery budgets by about 20 per cent for the average family. She hopes the newly announced program will offer more than just meals, and give young people the chance to engage with healthy eating.

"Ideally, also, are providing opportunities for children and youth to develop their food skills, that provide opportunities for local economic development including for farmers, but also for food entrepreneurs," said Roberts.

The federal announcement comes a month after Nova Scotia's government announced a public school lunch program.

While the concept will be new for many schools, it's something a Nova Scotia-based company is very familiar with.

"Right now, Food For Thought manages a number of school lunch programs across Canada. We manage school lunch programs here in Nova Scotia, with Annapolis Valley, as well as New Brunswick, Manitoba and British Columbia," said Food For Thought co-founder and CEO Melissa MacMaster.

She says the software saves schools time and reduces the stigma around food insecurity.

"Everyone's financial situation changes day to day and, you know, taking that stress off of the parents and having the ability to go on our software and order a lunch and have those two options of a partial payment or a non-payment really makes things a lot easier for them during these tough times," MacMaster said.

On average, it costs around $5 for a healthy school lunch, and the partial payment option allows parents to spend $2.50 in order to ensure their kids are getting a healthy meal. Top Stories

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