By Laura Keil

The hot lunch program at Valemount Elementary school has reinvented itself thanks to the parent advisory council (PAC) and the generosity of local restaurants.

PAC member Dallas Bullock said the PAC faced a hard choice when COVID-19 restrictions no longer allowed them to cook in the school’s kitchen. But they quickly found a solution that allowed them to keep serving healthyâ€and in many cases localâ€foods, by partnering with local restaurants who cook the meals in their own kitchens.

Each participating restaurant has donated their time, facilities, and food, which is sometimes supplemented with donations of meat or veggies provided by the PAC. The result is that kids can still buy a hot lunch twice a month for $5. Bullock said the main dish is often served with bread from Roots ‘n Thyme bakery in Dunster and a cup of fruit bought at IGA.

“The whole idea was to feed the kids a healthy meal and also to expose them to (new) things, like sauerkraut that we bought from a local producer so they can try it with their perogies, (or) we’ll have a borscht soup and maybe kids have never had that before,” Bullock said. “So not only is it an opportunity to give them hot food, but we want to also expand their palate a little bit.”

Bullock said the restaurants have been very positive and eager to contribute to the school.

“It’s really exciting for the restaurants as well. It just makes them feel really good. And they also maybe get to showcase something they do best.”

The restaurants that have participated so far include Abernathy’s, Caribou Grill, Summit Grill, Gathering Tree and Scooters and Bullock said she hopes these partnerships continue in the future.

PAC members are allowed in the school to serve the food, with COVID protocols in place, which allows them to see the kids’ response.

“The kids are super happy and they’re stoked about eating soup at lunch,” Bullock said. “So many of them come by and say thank you and come for extra.”

She said there’s always extra food available for a child without lunch or funds. If you’d like to donate to the hot lunch program, you can email Bullock at [email protected].