Thanks to the support of Courtenay Elementary, PAC, SD71, and the parents and caregivers of the students, the new hot lunch program at Courtenay Elementary is a year old, starting a year ago on March 11, 2023. That day, we served a tomato chicken pilaf to 35 kids.

The current lunch program started with funding from the Student and Family Affordability Fund. It allowed Courtenay Elementary to hire a food services worker and CECSS to purchase the needed kitchen equipment to prepare and serve a hot lunch. With the understanding of PAC, a new hybrid program was launched–Courtenay Elementary would provide a food services worker to make lunch while CECSS would buy the groceries and administer the program.

Things quickly grew from there. We averaged 50 meals a day in March, followed by 64, 76, and 75 meals per day in April, May, and June. In those few months, we served 4,625 lunches.

The program took off in the 2023/2024 school year where we average over 100 lunches per day. As of this spring break, we have served 14,976 lunches in the past year. In the 2023-2024 school year, we have served 10, 353 lunches and are on track to serve 15,000 for the year.

All of this is due to a very talented cook, who has brought a SE Asian style to lunch.

A Few Facts About the Program

Number of people who make lunch happen: 2

Lunches served from March-June, 2023: 4,623

Lunches served from September 2023- March, 2024: 10,353

Total lunches served from March 2023-March 2024: 14,976

Most unpopular lunches: Minestrone, fish wraps

Most popular lunches: French toast, chow mein, sushi rolls

Big surprise: The kids like rice.

Bigger surprise: They like rice so much, we had to buy a huge 60 cup rice cooker!

Ever bigger surprise: 60 cups of rice is usually not enough!

Biggest surprise: Introducing onigiri rice balls and miso soup and learning the kids love it.

Biggest disappointment: How much fresh fruit and vegetables the kids refuse to eat and scrape into the compost. It’s a real hit and miss when planning lunch.

Guilty pleasure: Knowing the kids don’t like vegetables but sneaking them into everything we serve.

Biggest lunch ever: 307 salmon burgers on National Indigenous Peoples Day, 2023.

Most complicated lunch to serve: Sushi rolls. It take a few people to prep the ingredients and expertly roll at least 50 rolls by lunchtime!

New Developments

Remember the petition for a national school lunch program CECSS was promoting last November? CECSS has received confirmation that our MP, Gord Johns, has received it! There is no word on when he will present it in Parliament, but we hope it is soon. In the meantime, CECSS has extended an invitation to Mr. Johns to visit the school and see the lunch program in action.

We are hopeful that there is some movement on a federally-funded national school lunch program. On March 6, CECSS was invited to LUSH Valley HQ to attend a press event with leader of the federal NDP, Jagmeet Singh; MP for Courtenay-Alberni, Gord Johns; and MP for North Island-Powell River, Rachel Blaney. At the event, Mr. Singh pressed PM Trudeau to fund a national school lunch program. You can watch the press event here.

We are thrilled that Mr. Singh chose the Comox Valley to make this announcement and hope that the announcement can become a reality. Federal funding would be a huge step forward as it would mean cheaper or even no-cost lunches for students.

A big crunch! Attendees to the NDP press event bite into fresh fruit and vegetables to launch the push for a federally-funded school lunch program. Photo: LUSH Valley

Speaking of costs, CECSS has lowered the cost of lunches for students in Kindergarten-Gr. 2 from$4 a lunch to $2 a lunch. This was done to reflect the fact that this cohort generally eats less and smaller portions compared to older kids. You can read up on the changes and order lunch for April on the Hot Lunch page.

Enjoy spring break!