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School lunch program brings language training students together

Once a month at the Belmont Centre, students gather for a free communal lunch hosted by students in the Employment Language Training (ELT) Hospitality program with funding through the Sustainable Canadian Agriculture Partnership, a joint initiative of the Government of Canada and the Province of Prince Edward Island.

Instructor Beverley Fullerton Lewis came up with the idea of hosting a monthly School Lunch after accessing funding for a similar dinner at her church. Initially, she received $7,000 to start the Belmont Centre project, and recently received an additional $10,000 in funding to continue the program.

The Belmont Centre is the location for most of Holland College’s language training (LINC) programs and serves over 700 students per year, many of them refugees. The ELT program provides newcomers with the opportunity to combine learning English and learning essential skills to help integrate them into the Prince Edward Island tourism industry. The program provides participants with increased English language reading, writing, listening, and speaking proficiency; helps them hone their customer service and communication skills; and prepares them for work.  The lunch program integrates a lot of their learning and brings them together as a team to serve the other students.

The initial funding could only be used for food, so Beverley posted a request for donations of cooking utensils on Facebook’s Marketplace and was overwhelmed with the generous response not only from across the Island, but from Nova Scotia, as well. In addition to pots and pans, people have donated a wide array of small appliances such as rice cookers and mixers.

The ELT students use the staff kitchen at the Belmont Centre to prepare the food and are involved in all steps of planning the menu. Beverley uses Flashfood, an app that advertises deals on local groceries, to stretch her food dollars even further. She and the ELT students have received food safety training.

The program, which is a food security initiative, has been running since January of 2023, and so far, dishes have included corn on the cob; a Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, vegetables, and pumpkin pie; a turkeys soup, vegetarian soup and homemade rolls; samosas, dumplings, Vietnamese spring rolls; chili and Bannock bread; pancakes, waffles, and frittata; hotdogs and homemade granola bars; and falafel and chicken shwarma.

Response to the program has been overwhelmingly positive. In a recent survey, students offered the following observations:  

“I ate at the ELT Hospitality Class school lunches five times this year...and it is so delicious.... You are really working hard! I just want to say thank you for giving us such a memorable and impressive time.”

"This lunch program is better and better and helps me to understand many cultures through their dishes.”

“This program is the best way to make me understand the culinary culture of Canada.”

One of the ELT participants wrote, “It’s very good idea to feed more than a hundred...people once every month free. They really enjoy it and we are happy to learn food preparation skills and serving skills during the program.”

Beverley is unsure about the continuation of the program after March 2025 but certainly hopes that funding will continue, and so do the students!

For more information, please contact:
Sara Underwood, Media and Communications Officer
Tel: 902-566-9695
Date: May 27, 2024