Student rates

Need for student dinners in Red Deer area increases by 25%: The Mustard Seed

More and more children in central Alberta are coming to school with empty stomachs – they haven’t eaten breakfast and don’t bring lunch.

The need for free school meals has increased by 25% in the Red Deer area compared to last year, according to an official from The Mustard Seed.

“If we can provide lunch for the students, that’s a big deal,” said Byron Bradley, general manager of The Mustard Seed in central Alberta — then the kids can focus on learning instead of their hunger pangs.

It is clear that many families in central Alberta are struggling, he added. “Unfortunately, in October, we broke our monthly record with 10,545 lunches distributed to 49 schools in seven communities. And on Monday, we broke our daily record, with 637 lunches prepared in one day for all three school divisions.

Meal preparation for Red Deer Public and Catholic Schools and Chinook’s Edge Schools previously cost The Mustard Seed approximately $2.50 per meal.

With rising food prices and inflation, those costs have now more than doubled, said Bradley, who was delighted to receive a $39,000 donation for The Mustard Seed’s school lunch program on Thursday from Red Deer Public School Division.

“Our goal is to make life more livable and enjoyable for children,” he added, noting that this money will go a long way to reducing the impacts of poverty in central Alberta.

Schools in Red Deer, Sylvan Lake, Innisfail, Bowden, Delburne and Elnora receive lunches donated by The Mustard Seed. “What we are doing is a great responsibility but also a great honor and privilege,” he added.

Red Deer Public School Board President Nicole Buchanan said the $39,000 came from a $250,000 nutrition grant the district received from Alberta Education.

Most government funds were spent on food supplies, including breakfast programs, at Red Deer public schools. But there was a surplus, and Buchanan said the district knew exactly what to do with it.

Many schools supplement the free meals provided by The Mustard Seed so that all students can be offered food. This prevents some children from feeling isolated, Buchanan said. “No child wants to say, ‘There’s something wrong with me.’ They would feel like they were letting their parents down.

The administrator, who also works as an officer for the Calgary Police Department, knows that many families are now struggling with high inflation, rising interest rates, unemployment, the opioid crisis and other obstacles. “I’ve never seen him so bad, never…”

Teresa Tataryn, principal of Fairview Elementary School, where Thursday’s check presentation took place, said her students included refugees, non-English-speaking immigrants and middle-to-low-income Canadian-born children. Overall, “everyone is struggling,” she added.

The Mustard Seed needs volunteers who can help prepare meals between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. on weekdays, or who can help deliver those meals to schools. Please call 403-352-8028 if you can help.


[email protected]
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Red Deer Public School


Red Deer Public Schools President Nicole Buchanan (second from left) presented a check for $39,000 for the school lunch program to Byron Bradley (second from right), general manager of The Mustard Seed in downtown Alberta. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Nicole Buchanan, president of Red Deer Public Schools.  (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Nicole Buchanan, president of Red Deer Public Schools. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Byron Bradley, general manager of The Mustard Seed in central Alberta.  (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Byron Bradley, general manager of The Mustard Seed in central Alberta. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).