In June, we asked students and parents/caregivers about what they thought about the hot lunch program. These are the results. The purpose of this survey is measure the level of satisfaction and interest in the program so that we can improve it. On the whole, it is safe to say that the program is popular. With some tweaks based on the feedback we received, the program should be even better come September!

The hot lunch program at Courtenay Elementary officially started in March 2023 thanks to funding from the Province of BC’s Feeding Futures funding. School District 71 has been allocated $1.14 million each year for the next three years to create or expand local food programs. 

The funding allowed Courtenay Elementary and Courtenay Elementary Community School Society to start a lunch program from March 2023. The program is unique within the school district; Courtenay Elementary hired a Food Services Worker to prepare the meals while  Courtenay Elementary Community School Society administers the program and purchases the groceries.

The purpose of the hot lunch program is to provide a made-from-scratch lunch that exposes students to new foods, flavours, and textures at low or no cost. IT IS NOT A FUNDRAISER and does not seek to make a profit. Sadly, Canada is the only G7 country without a nationally-funded school lunch program. and we would love nothing more than to see a full-funded universal school lunch program like the rest of the modern world.

Since March 2023, the lunch program has served 22,413 lunches.

The program operates on a cost recovery basis, charging students nominal fee (K-Gr. 2: $2 and Gr. 3-5: $3) and relies on Feeding Futures funding to cover any additional costs and expenses. Any family facing financial hardship can ask for their child’s lunches to be subsidized.

This three-minute video is a great introduction to what the program is about.

K-Gr. 2 survey

We used survey questions based on School Meal and School Nutrition Program Handbook jointly developed by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Healthy Living and Sport. It relied on images shown below rather than text to gauge how students felt. We’ve reproduced their responses into a graph.

Image showing meaning of icons.
Results for Q1
Results for Q2
Results for Q3
Results of Q4
Results of Q5
Results of Q6

Gr. 3-Gr. 5 survey

This survey was administered both online and as a printed survey. The results have been combined into the graphs below.

Image of intermediate grades
Results of Q2
Results of Q3
Results for Q4
Results for Q5
Results for Q6
Results for Q7
Results for Q9
Because of the numerous responses and different kinds of foods, we re-created the graph as a pie chart to make it more readable. The similarity between this graph and the one below isn’t surprising. For all of the food that kids love, there is generally a group of kids who dislike a particular dish.
Results for Q10
Because of the numerous responses and different kinds of foods, we re-created the graph as a pie chart to make it more readable.

Q11. Tell us about any ideas you have for lunch or how to make the lunch program better.
31 responses

• No response

• If there were 2 counters, and 2 line ups because normally the line for hot lunch is almost the entire length of the school. More volunteers dishing out lunch.

• A little more food in portion

• Ramen, different sandwiches and smoothies

• No fish or mushrooms

• Baked potatoes

• California rolls

• Ramen

• Bigger meals, more dairy-free foods

• French fries

• You should add pizza, hamburgers and hotdogs

• Give out candy, and serve French toast more often

• It great how it is!

• Chili, smoked salmon

• I like all of it!

• Dessert, please

• No mushrooms

• I don’t know

• Have some ice cream and cake

• No response

• New lunches from different places

• More time to eat (more time so I can have time to get thirds) ha ha!

• Add small treats/dessert

Comment: Asking the littles what they would like to see on the menu is a loaded question. While it only appears in a few comments, the kids told us they wanted a lot more French toast and dessert.

Parents and caregivers survey

This survey was administered online only.

What is your relationship to Courtenay Elementary?
Results of Q2
Results of Q3
Results of Q4
Results of Q5
Results of Q6
With this question, we wanted to know how involved parents and caregivers were with ordering lunch. We had a significant number of students who kept showing up for lunch unannounced or who did not order lunch. We suspect there are a number of students who ditch their lunches in favour of what is being served at school. However, when a child says they forgot their lunch or that they didn’t bring a lunch, we feed them regardless. We hope that parents and caregivers can sign up for the program so that we can prepare enough food and have a talk with their child about eating their packed lunches if they brought one.
Results of Q7
Results of Q8
A related question was posed at the June PAC meeting: Why was the “Donate” button removed from the MunchaLunch menu? The timing of the question is awkward as the community school reduced the prices of lunches before the survey was conducted. The price of lunches are about as low as they can go, and lowing price if one way to make the program more accessible, with our ultimate aim to have them be “free” through provincial and federal funding. We wanted to make full use of our Feeding Futures funding, but are heartened to see that the majority of respondents are willing to pay a little more.
Results of Q9
Facebook seems to be the clear communication tool of choice.
Results of Q10
The disagreements are interesting. Some further reading: Canada’s National School Food Policy and The Economic Rationale for Investing in School Meal Programs for Canada: multi-sectoral impacts from comparable high-income countries by Amberly Ruetz.
Results of Q11

Q12. If you could add or remove anything on the lunch menu, what would you change and why?
13 responses

• I would add more familiar meals for children, and pick one day a week to hype up foods from around the world and learn about that country.

• Add- baked potatoes. Add- chicken strips

• Some simpler options, my child has sensory disorder and most options always have something they dont like or cant eat.

• Making a couple gluten/dairy/egg free meals would be nice.

• Dessert options once and awhile, for fun!

• Everything is amazing! I wouldn’t change a thing!

• I don’t think I would, I love the selection you offer and that it’s not the typical “kid friendly” chicken strips, grilled cheese, etc.

• I appreciate introducing children to diverse foods, and at the same time I think a lot of them would enjoy a simple grilled cheese sandwich or bowl of macaroni and cheese now and then. Perhaps adding a few of these kid friendly foods would encourage more students to participate?

• Add more veggies and dip sides

•You do such a fabulous job… there isn’t anything I would change.. other than maybe my kid being less picky so I could order every one of your delicious meals 😆

• My daughter has a hard time with spice

• Non I love how it has various items

• Everything on the menu is great. It is important for the kids to try different flavours, food and have nutritional value.

Q13. How can we make the lunch program better? Use this space for your ideas and opinions.
14 responses

• It’s great

• Doing pizza days again would he huge( even ordering threw online so no lines in morning) hotdogs, pastas just more simple things even once a week would be great for the kids that struggle and picky eaters

• Having a once a month gluten/dairy/egg free lunch so children with allergies can participate would be nice. I know a little one who would like to join in once and awhile.

• Maybe a build your own salad bar on the side to see what vegetables are popular with kids (with a few different dressings too)

• Easier processing/ordering for multiple children I. The home. I would love a “select all days/menus” option for each month. It saves time/effort for those who order everyday rather than manually adding each option for each child.

• You are already doing great!!

• My child often complain that the food is cold by the time they get it. This makes me nervous from a food safety standpoint.

• Can’t please us all, but very well executed and amazing quality in ingredients

• Maybe an easier way to cancel a lunch (with enough notice) without having to bug you guys. I also like that it feels like we have a bit more time to order now (not sure if it’s changed but I felt like last year there were many times I was too late to order lunch for a certain day…) or perhaps i am just more organized this year lol.

• Our family is extremely impressed with the hot lunch program. I love the variety, quality and price, and my kids almost always give the food 2 thumbs up. Thanks so much!

• We really love it. It’s valuable and our kid is exposed to a wonderful variety of foods we don’t cook at home.

• Larger servings

• Older kids need more food, then it would reduce the amount of time leaving the classroom to get seconds. It’s a feeding frenzy and a chaotic time. Not helpful in any way and very difficult to manage as a teacher.

• The lunch program this year is great. You have a seasonal lunch menus but it would be interesting if you could add more International cuisine rotation from different countries each week or month to expose kids to various culture. Thanks for all you do.

Comments: The suggestions and opinions of students and adults have given us some ideas for the next school year.

In terms of dietary needs, the lunch program has supported a few students who can’t eat dairy or who don’t eat pork. In looking at our lunches, quite a few could be gluten-free with a few changes (swapping regular soy sauce for tamari soy sauce, for example). With some clearer labeling on our part, we think can offer a gluten-free lunch in the next school year.

As for new lunch ideas, SD71 has set aside some money for food infrastructure to help boost productivity and efficiency in school meal programs. SD71 will purchase a larger oven range that can fit full-size sheet pans, install better range venting, install Dutch doors (so people can see in but not come in for greater safety during preparation) for Courtenay Elementary. We are not entirely sure when these changes will happen but it will be during the 2024/25 school year. A larger oven should allow us to bake more stuff quickly. Who doesn’t like French fries on the side of their lunch?

The community school also has a grant to install a new deep sink basin with spray wand and add more stainless steel work tables and cabinets.

Thank you for your feedback!