Transforming Lives Through Nutrition at Elsipogtog

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Transforming Lives Through Nutrition at Elsipogtog

Christina Metcalf, a Registered Dietitian, plays a pivotal role at the school in Elsipogtog, a Mi’kmaq First Nation located half-way between Miramichi and Moncton on the Richibucto River.

Christina has seen the change in the student's attitude toward food and nutrition since the new programs were implemented.

Christina’s work has changed as Elsipogtog’s school nutrition and food program has evolved. Her focus is now on helping to shape the school menu, work with cooks and cafeteria staff to ensure a balanced, seasonally-varied diet, and support nutrition education of students and their parents.

The school’s breakfast and lunch program addresses the community’s significant food insecurity, which has grown more concerning over the last year of dramatically rising inflation and food costs. Many students rely on the food they get at school so Christina makes sure that meals are diverse and nutritious, that they include fruits and vegetables, and that they incorporate Indigenous traditional foods whenever possible. The menu includes moose meat sourced from a staff member who is a hunter, providing a connection to Indigenous traditions and a unique culinary experience.

Christina’s work sourcing and ordering food is especially critical given the rising costs that Elsipogtog’s families and school food program are facing. Her priority is to minimize food waste through careful forecasting and menu planning. Any surplus is directed to the community shelter. Students or families may receive leftover items if they can use the extra support.

a little girl stands in a field

Seeing the importance of having good food on hand, Scarlette and her friends on student council implemented a snack program to ensure no classmate goes without food in the day.

Scarlette, a Grade 4 student at the school, recognizes how important the school food program is for her family: “My dad, he works on a boat, and my mom works at home. I don’t really like asking my mom to do stuff because she really needs to work. So that’s what I like about breakfast at school – I don’t need to try to make it myself or I don’t need to make my parents make it for me.

As a member of the student council, Scarlette and a friend worked together to revamp how the morning and afternoon snacks could be distributed to make sure more students were able to enjoy the program. We had an idea that if kids had snacks that they didn’t like or they didn’t want, they could put it in the snack basket,” she explained. Students can deposit any snacks they don’t want into the snack basket, and then it’s taken to each classroom so that whoever doesn’t have a snack can select one.

Christina emphasizes the value of involving students in the process, encouraging their feedback and ideas, and making them aware of the program’s goals. The positive impact extends beyond nutritional benefits, enhancing students’ overall wellbeing and academic performance.

Looking ahead, Christina envisions a future where the program can expand beyond breakfast and lunch. Despite current funding constraints, she hopes to reintroduce initiatives like the school garden to “get the kids excited again about the process of producing their own food.” The long-term goal is to enhance students’ connections to healthy living.

Thanks to ongoing donor support, and the hard work of the community, the dedicated students, staff and families in Elsipogtog are creating sustainable change for children.