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Healthy food a priority at Canyon School

Saturday, 02 December 2017. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Healthy food a priority at Canyon School
Kathryn Rhind prepares healthy lunches for Canyon School students.   Photo by Georgia Dale

Healthy food a priority at Canyon School

By Auralea Boldt

The Grade 5 students, who are filling out a survey on iPads, are surprised when principal Paul Pichurski tells them that, ideally, they should be eating 10 servings of vegetables a day.Most recollect eating only a few servings the day before.

The Canyon School nutrition program, which launched in February of last year, is back up and running as of Nov. 1, and has hired a nutrition co-ordinator, Kathryn Rhind.

Mrs. Rhind has a culinary background as a trained cook, and is also a former teacher. What she enjoys most about her position is knowing that students aren’t hungry.

“They can’t learn anything if they are,” she says.

Her biggest pet peeve is seeing kids eating unhealthy food during the school day.

“If you don’t know what to do with a cucumber or snap pea, it’s tough, so people wind up relying on convenience foods,” she says.

She sees her role as an opportunity not only to feed Canyon students, but also to increase their food literacy.

“For a lot of kids, this might be the only time they ever eat a snap pea or a carrot stick,” she says.

Canyon School is part of a provincewide effort, launched by the Alberta government, to increase nutrition in schools.

While the program was piloted in two schools in the Livingstone Range School Division, this year it has been expanded to include Horace Allen School and Isabelle Sellon School in Crowsnest Pass.

The nutrition program provides one healthy snack daily to every student, and includes two food groups each day.

Principal Pichurski, also new to Canyon School this year, will continue the direction of the program launched last year under former principal Dave Fender, with a few changes.

“We will be collecting survey information from students regarding their use of the program, and we will be creating a nutrition committee at Canyon to help support Mrs. Rhind in her work,” he says.

In an effort to reduce waste, a commercial-grade dishwasher has been installed, which will reduce the use of disposable cutlery and dishware.

Snacks are generally delivered to the classroom in a large plastic container that students return to the kitchen immediately after use.

“We are also co-ordinating with community members to continue with a compost program, to reduce food waste from the nutrition program,” he says.

Mrs. Rhind feels that introducing kids to different foods and cultures is very important, and her future ideas for the program include making and serving authentic ethnic food: corn tortillas made from scratch, tacos and traditional First Nations food.

“If you try to give them food that is fun to eat, they might learn something,” she says.

The Canyon School Booster Society recently hosted its second Farm to School fundraiser, taking in just shy of $2,500.

Instead of traditional fundraising items such as cookies or chocolates, the children sold vegetables sourced in Alberta and Manitoba.

Friends and family could also buy bundles as donations to the local food bank. This year 900 pounds of vegetables were donated.

“Parent volunteers help on the day of delivery, which was amazing,” says Christy Newcomen-Randall, treasurer of the booster society.

“It’s a lot of work, with 50-pound bags. It’s quite a process.”

In the past, the society has funded activities like curling and has bought playground equipment. This year’s goal is to raise funds for experiential learning opportunities.

Commitments include Scientist in the Classroom, a program that brings a different science workshop and hands-on activities to each classroom, or sending the grades 4, 5 and 6 students to watch the movie Wonder, based on a book they’ve been reading in class.

Mrs. Rhind says the Farm to School fundraiser, with its emphasis on healthy food, is a nice complement to the nutrition program already in place at Canyon School.

As part of the nutrition program, Canyon ensures that students who may have missed their morning meal have the opportunity to eat before starting their day, and provides a bagged lunch to those who require it.

“Students who have access to healthy food choices are more likely to be ready to participate in the activities of the school day effectively,” Mr. Pichurski says.