Nutrition for Learning offers healthy food options for students studying online

Starting January 5, Nutrition for Learning will offer a community nutrition program with ‘universal access’ to families who can use food items at home.

While schools remain closed and students return online, Nutrition for Learning will offer a community feeding program with “universal access” to families who can use food items at home.

The program begins January 5 when a truckload of healthy food options makes its way to schools across the Waterloo region.

“We are very fortunate to be able to offer this,” says O’Neill Edwards, CEO of Nutrition for Learning.

“We decided a long time ago that we had to make sure we had a Plan B to get to know the needs of the community. We did that last year, and it was also a great opportunity for teachers, parents and students to see each other queuing up for some healthy snacks.”

About 93 percent of schools in the Waterloo area participate in the program, and Edwards says plans are underway to make sure all rural schools are included.

“We are working on a plan to set up certain schools in rural areas, to be central reception sites,” Edwards says.

“Volunteers will be on the road with bags ready for pickup.”

The bags include a variety of healthy foods including yogurt, applesauce, fruit, popcorn, string of cheese, and hard-boiled eggs.

Nutrition for Learning works in partnership with Changing the Flow, a social enterprise dedicated to achieving menstrual equality.

“Feminine hygiene products or ‘period packs’ will also be available,” Edwards said. “These things can be very expensive for families,” Edwards said.

“During the holidays, families have had to make some hard choices. We do what we can for our families. We want to help families so that they don’t have to make those hard choices when it comes to being able to provide nutritious food.”

Nutrition for Learning provides comprehensive access to student nutrition programs in schools across the Waterloo region.

The registered charitable organization says healthy food programs impact the physical, cognitive, behavioral and academic needs of children and youth across the Waterloo region.

Founded in 1997, Nutrition for Learning supports more than 150 student programs within the Waterloo District School Board, Waterloo District Catholic School Board, and French Public School Board.

“We care about healthy snacks at school but right now, it’s a tough time for kids as they start learning from home and without their friends. We want to make sure they get healthy, nutritious food while they’re learning,” Edwards said.

“It really does make a difference for so many families.”

Edwards says volunteers will be on hand to help and safety measures including physical distancing will be practiced at each school at the time of pickup.

“Anyone can take whatever they want,” Edwards said.

“It’s about student access to everyone. That’s it.”

For more information on Nutrition for Learning and to find the school schedule for the Community Nutrition Program, visit https://www.nutritionforlearning.ca/community_nutrition/

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