W. L. McLeod Elementary now has more wash cycle choices than just “human” to continue its healthy-eating lunch program, weekend meal plan for those in need, and student life skill training.
With a joint donation of $7,000 from the Kinette Club of Vanderhoof and Integris Credit Union, McLeod’s parent advisory committee purchased an industrial dishwasher this fall to replace the school’s aging equipment. Credit union staff and Kinettes were invited to its weekly Farm to School lunch program for a celebration on Oct. 26.
“That was the immediate need,” said kitchen coordinator Heather Campbell-Stewart. “[The old dishwasher] needed repairs all the time; we were going to lose our program, as we have a tight budget.”
Featuring locally-sourced meats and vegetables grown by students in the Vanderhoof Community Garden, McLeod’s food program provides free daily breakfasts and hot lunches — which includes a salad bar — three days a week.
“On the fifth year of the program, kids are more willing to eat things that they were not before,”
Campbell-Stewart said. “[There were kids who] wouldn’t touch the healthier food like spinach salad, but they start eating when they plant the spinach themselves.
“The exposure has made healthier food more normal for them.”
It’s also an opportunity to teach students about low waste and social etiquette.
“We encourage them at the salad bar to take only what you can eat, and consider who else is coming in the lineup,” the kitchen coordinator said. “If you’re hungrier than you thought, then come back for seconds.
“What we scraped off plates goes to chickens.”
Extra hot entrees made at the lunch program are frozen into portions for the school’s new weekend backpack program, where some students identified by staff are sent home with two breakfasts, lunches, dinners, fruits, and dairy snacks for the weekend.
Started this spring, the program currently has 32 students and is funded by private donations.
“An idea brought in by several concerned citizens,” Campbell-Stewart said. “There are kids that we have reason to believe may not be receiving enough nutrition at home.”
Time and energy saved with the new dishwasher can also be devoted to more cooking skills teaching, as Grade 5 and 6 students learn knife skills and bake snacks for students in need. Extra muffins or cookies would also be added to the weekend backpack meals.
The dishwasher upgrade was selected by Integris’ community impact committee as a project that makes the most community impact, and the partnership with Vanderhoof Kinettes enabled a sufficient purchase to meet the school’s needs.
“Using the relationships in the community, we are able to get the best dishwasher that they can install,” said Dan Wingham, Integris’ manager of partnerships and business development.
For the Kinettes, the industrial dishwasher may serve the needs of other local programs. “Our hope is that they’ll pay it forward and allow groups in the community to use it.”
Applications for Integris community impact funding are accepted online on an ongoing basis.