Food Depot Alimentaire gets M from province to help feed students

Food Depot Alimentaire gets $2M from province to help feed students

Food Depot Alimentaire gets M from province to help feed students

The provincial government has renewed a $2 million contract to Food Depot Alimentaire, which will help feed students in 135 schools across New Brunswick.

The contract, announced Friday at the organization’s main distribution centre in Moncton, is being renewed for a third year and will go toward breakfast programs for the upcoming school year.

Stephane Sirois, Food Depot’s executive director, said his staff sees student participation rates in these programs as high as 80 per cent in some schools. 

He said the greatest need often comes from elementary schools, and not every school in the province has a program put in place yet.

 “The most important thing is to expand,” Sirois said. “We would like to deliver food to every school in the province and make sure every student has access to a healthy breakfast.”

A pile of boxed and bagged food sitting on shelves in a warehouse.
The provincial funding will also help Food Depot continue its efforts to relieve school staff of the pressure that comes with ensuring kids aren’t hungry in school, Sirois says. (Katelin Belliveau/CBC)

The organization provides 5,000 breakfasts to schools daily, according to its website. It also delivers to food banks, community kitchens and other agencies across New Brunswick.

“Up north, we’re only in a few schools so we’re hoping that there will be an agreement with the federal government with the national school food program that will allow us to add more funding and deliver to more schools.”

WATCH | ‘That’s thousands of students who have access to healthy breakfasts’:

Here’s why renewed funding is so critical to Moncton’s Food Depot

The province has awarded a $2 million contract to Food Depot Alimentaire for healthy food in schools. Executive director Stephane Sirois says he sees a future where every school in the province benefits from this kind of support.

Food Depot’s funding renewal comes after the federal government announced Monday that it would commit $1 billion over five years for a new national school-food policy. 

The Liberals made the promise as part of their 2021 campaign strategy, saying they would impose restrictions on food and beverage marketing to children and improve labelling to promote healthy food options.

When asked what he thought about the $1-billion commitment, Sirois said, “Finally!”

Canada remains the only G7 country without a school food program on a national scale, leaving provinces without a streamlined process.

Sirois said the provincial funding will also help the organization continue its efforts to relieve school staff of the pressure that comes with ensuring kids aren’t hungry in school.

“It frees up teachers and the volunteers at school to focus on their program,” he said. “They don’t have to worry about sourcing the food, so we bring the food to them.”

A man in a suit speaks at a podium in front of two other men in suits.
Education Minister Bill Hogan said the government also needs to consider how to help parents when it comes to children experiencing food insecurity. (Katelin Belliveau/CBC)

Minister of Education Bill Hogan said at Friday’s announcement the No. 1 priority for schools is to focus on providing quality education, not feeding kids.

“Unfortunately, part of what we need to do is ensure that students aren’t hungry when they’re coming to school.

Hogan said the province is having initial discussions with the federal government on how to best collaborate on its proposed national policy. He said there could be top-up funding for New Brunswick.

“I think the first year is $2.8 million, something around that, that we’re going to add to that from the federal government. We’re deeply appreciative of that, it’s going to go a long way.”

Food insecurity data in Canada showed one in four households in New Brunswick were food insecure in 2023, according to a report by Proof, a research group at the University of Toronto. The federal government describes food insecurity as “the inability to acquire or consume an adequate diet,” which is “often linked with the household’s financial ability.”

Hogan said the government also needs to consider the role of parents when it comes to children experiencing food insecurity. 

“How do we help parents in need … so that it all doesn’t land at the school because, currently, it all lands at the school.”