School Creates Pay-What-You-Want Lunch So Students Can Eat Without Embarrassment
A school in Annapolis is offering a pay-what-you-want lunch initiative.
The scheme was set up to reduce the divisions created by wealth in the area, which resulted in many pupils turning up to school hungry - a situation that was not only impacting their ability to learn but causing social stigma too.
The pilot was established earlier this month by the Berwick and District School by parent and teacher volunteers and Sarah Mullen, a nutritionist from the Nova Scotia Health Authority.
"We know that food security is an issue, we know that kids show up to school hungry, we need a confidential, stigma-free way to address that," nutritionist Mullen said.
"It shows up in things like behavior, concentration, creativity and attendance, and so this all kind of feeds into academic performance," said Mullen. "And eventually down the line, whether a student graduates."
Prior to the introduction of the pay-what-you-want scheme, the school had introduced a salad bar earlier this year to encourage children to eat healthier meals. However, it was not accessible to everyone.
"It's really interesting to watch kids that I know may have never seen anything green on their plate before, trying out different vegetables," Principal Doucet said.
The salad bar was the brainchild of parent Jenny Osburn, who said that shortly after it was introduced and proved to be an unexpected hit, she realized that the cafeteria system had a bigger problem.
"I really quickly realized by doing that, we were creating a bit of a barrier to kids because there were kids that wanted to have this gorgeous colorful salad bar and yummy food, and they couldn't afford it," she said.
While kids weren't necessarily going hungry prior to the introduction of the new model, those who were given free lunches which consisted of foods like sandwiches and soups weren't able to access the salad bar.
"We made sandwiches for kids, we used to make soup and those were all good attempts until the kid next to them started having this amazing salad," said Doucet.
"The problem with that is that it stigmatized the kids that didn't bring a lunch," said Doucet. "They would have something special, something out of the ordinary, that they'd have to come down here and present.
"So from that stage, the pay-what-you-can system was born."
"It gives people real confidence, I think, that they can get their lunch without embarrassment," said Osburn.
The project is being funded by various sources including the Mud Creek Rotary of Wolfville and Friends of Agriculture in Nova Scotia. Now, it's long term sustainability is being examined.
"The hope all along has been that this is something with potential, something that we could see done in more schools here in the [Annapolis] Valley," said Mullen.