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MVSD, U of M partner on youth nutrition study

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Mountain View School Division (MVSD) is working with the University of Manitoba (U of M) on a youth nutrition study.
“The researchers need a sample size of over 100 students in order to provide us with data that is reliable. So, we’ve chosen four high schools to look at doing this survey,” explained assistant superintendent Dan Ward, adding the survey will be with Grade 9 students at Dauphin Regional Comprehensive Secondary School, Gilbert Plains Collegiate Institute, Goose Lake High and Grandview School.
The province-wide study will include the development of a report card on youth nutrition, he said, and examine the impacts of nutrition on health and educational outcomes.
It goes beyond dietary intake, Ward added, as the study will gather information on food security and create a description of the nutritional status of Grade 9 students in Manitoba.
“So it includes their dietary intake, nutrition and food groups, ability to access healthy food regularly, their overall health and well-being and food and eating behaviours,” he said.
“Some of the questions will focus on if the student has any concerns or worries that food at home would run out before the family had the opportunity to buy more, what kind of food is available in the home, access to food overall. Even meal size and questions around, if you had to skip a meal, because the family didn’t have enough money for food. So it is a wide range of questions.”
MVSD will not be provided with information specific to a student, Ward, said, pointing out it is a voluntary survey.
As a result, he said, MVSD will be sending information to parents regarding participation in the survey and families do have the option to opt out.
The division is also going to share the benefits of the study with families, Ward said, noting the benefit for participants is each participating student will obtain a printout of their diet, including serving sizes, a number of food groups based on Canada’s Food Guide and it is an opportunity to generate reliable data regarding the nutritional status and needs of Manitoba children and youth.
MVSD is the 12th school division in the province to participate, he said, noting the board decided to get involved, because it is interested in food security.
Trustees also wanted to learn more information about the breakfast and lunch programs throughout the division, Ward said, and administration is in the process of collecting that information for the board.
“Many of our schools, in fact most of our schools, have either a breakfast or a lunch program and, of course, here in Dauphin, we benefit from the Food for Thought program. But it’s a bit of a patchwork. We do use some funding from our Healthy Schools grant to support those programs and the individual schools apply for additional grants and do fund-raising for those programs as well,” he explained.
“But what we don’t have a full handle on is how those programs are being funded outside of the Healthy Schools grants and are collecting information about how many schools have those breakfast and lunch programs, where the needs are and how they’re funded. This, coupled with this study, I think, will be valuable information for our division and certainly for stakeholders when we’re talking about educational outcomes. I mean a student who comes to school hungry is not going to have great educational outcomes.”
MVSD has been co-ordinating implementation of the survey with U of M, Ward said, anticipating it will be done this spring.
“They’re going to actually come up and assist. We’re going to provide the space and the technology, but they’re a team from the University of Manitoba faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, they actually come up and they facilitate the survey,” he added.
“So they provide the explanation and they answer any questions that participants might have. So they’re very much involved right from the get go.”
Ward is not certain when MVSD will receive survey results, but U of M has committed to sharing specific information about the division.
The survey will take up to 45 minutes to complete, he said, and MVSD hopes to learn valuable information about food security in the region and about some of the dietary habits and nutrition of students.
“And I think that will help inform our schools about the need for education, but also will certainly contribute to the conversation we have with stakeholders, in terms of the need for broader support for education and also for programs that ensure that our students don’t come to school hungry or don’t go to class hungry,” Ward said.

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M. A. Nyquist
REPORTER
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