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Student uses $500 film prize to improve school lunch offerings

Eleven-year-old Kieran O'Neill was this year's winner of the Food and Film Challenge at Devour! The Food Film Fest in Wolfville

Eleven-year-old Kieran O'Neill was this year's winner of the Food and Film Challenge at Devour! The Food Film Fest in Wolfville, NS.

His short film, called School Food, showed off some of the lunches currently served at Central Kings school, including cheeseburgers, mac and cheese, and poutine.

The competition is held by Nourish Nova Scotia, an organization that promotes healthy foods in schools. The winning film is screened the opening night of the festival, and the student receives a $500 cash prize to pay forward into a food program in their school or community.

"We offer a contest every year as a way to engage children and youth in issues around food, essentially trying to build food literacy," says Margo Riebe-Butt, executive director of Nourish Nova Scotia.

O'Neill decided to donate his winning to upgrade lunchtime for his fellow students, donating the $500 prize to create a salad bar in the cafeteria.

"Oftentimes kids might complain about something, but Kieran actually decided to do something about the problem," Reibe-Butt says.

The salad bar made its debut Feb. 28, and over 650 students and staff chowed down on the fresh veggies. Riebe-Butt says the school is also working towards a permanent healthy offering including salad, a daily special, fruit, and milk or water for five dollars.

"School food programs are so powerful, because kids spend half their waking hours in school," says Riebe-Butt. "We know that kids that develop good habits earlier in life will continue them on into adulthood."

Nourish Nova Scotia is promoting a petition online calling on the Minister of Health to launch a national school food program in Canada.

There are currently over 3,000 signatures, including almost 700 from Nova Scotia.

"There's a lot more people can do," says Riebe-Butt. "Join the campaign, call your MP, start something in your community. We all have to own this, we cannot continue to raise unhealthy kids."

Victoria  Walton

About the Author: Victoria Walton

After graduating from journalism at King's, Victoria Walton now works in the film industry and as's weekend editor.
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