It’s been almost five years since my first year at Nakusp Secondary, and at that time, essentially the closest we had to a canteen were the vending machines by the gym, which supplied potato chips and candy bars.
Due to new enforcements made by the ministry of health and education, these were removed, in order to encourage healthy eating, and though many students brought packed lunches from home, it became a trend for many to bring money and go down to the fast-food restaurants or buy candy from convenience stores during their lunch breaks.
But this year has differed greatly due to the student growth plan organized by the teachers. Many budget cuts have been witnessed at the school, and a need for funding became apparent to the teachers, thus the introduction of Cougar Snacks, our very own school store.
That was something of a start for the varying healthy food programs at NSS. The store supplies health-approved and free-trade food at affordable prices, as well as school-supplies, and now remains self-supporting with volunteer students working during lunch hours and preparing the occasional special.
“I think it’s something that’s really helpful for students,” says Christina Barisoff, home economics teacher. Ms. Barisoff primarily organizes and runs Cougar Snacks.
But popularity of the store is now divided between other programs formed as fundraisers. Students at NSS are no strangers to the soup days organized by the PAC (Parents Advisory Council), that once a week supplies a bowl of soup to students and staff for two dollars. But taking a page out of their book, the graduates of 2012 have been fundraising towards their end of the year banquet and ceremony in the same way.
One of the hardest workers towards this cause is Cheryl Black, the parent of a 2012 graduate, who volunteers her time twice a week to make, on average, two litres of soup, or occasionally some other hot lunch, made with healthy materials and no additives or unnatural sugars. These are inexpensive, but still have a lowered price specifically for students. She is very dedicated to this activity, saying “During the winter months my job is slower, but I do it for the grads.” Since the beginning of the year, the grads have earned $1,800, and this is thanks mostly to the “food fundraisers.”
Cheryl Black thinks that these activities have become very popular due to recent cut-backs and the need for school organizations and clubs to earn money, as seen with the Student Council and the Oudoor Education class, the latter of which also recently began to have hot-lunches twice a week, fundraising for a field trip in the spring. In just three and a half weeks they have earned $504.
Adding to this, students at the high school are also supplied with free organic fruits and vegetables, supplied by the BC Fruit and Vegetable program in collaboration with BC Act Now, as well as the BC Ministry of Agriculture. This program must be applied to every year, and our school has applied for a total of three years in a row.
There’s always a small flutter of excitement throughout a classroom when free, healthy food is delivered in the middle of a lesson, and this popularity seems to be spreading, as the program is expanding outside of the province, funded by the government and promoting local produce.
Since these events, students have been educated on healthy eating and it’s been noted that changes, whether conscious or not, have been made also on the part of the students, diet improvement being seen in lunches from home as well as at school.
On the topic of school hot lunches, principal Susan Paterson said, “It’s building community.” Because really, what better way to bring people together than with one of the most commonly shared interests, food? Or more specifically, food that will lead to the healthier lives of our youth.