Manitoba government wants contractor to provide meals for 15,000 students, as pandemic halts school programs

With school closures across the province, the Manitoba government is looking to provide daily meals for 15,000 students to replace programs that can no longer operate.

A request for proposals issued on Wednesday says the province is looking for a contractor to provide meal packages across the province for students, beginning May 11.

“With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and suspension of in-school classes, it is imperative for Manitoba to find innovative way to continue to support students who require nutritious meals,” reads the RFP issued April 22. 

“With pending job losses and wage losses, it is anticipated that require nutritional supports will grow.”

The contractor will be required to supply meal packages, as well as learning materials and recipes for low-income families.

The contractor would deliver goods such as eggs, milk and bread, along with fruits and vegetables. There will also be options for nut-free and vegetarian meals.

It’s estimated that one per cent of the school lunches will have to be dry goods only, as the homes don’t have refrigerators. 

The contractor will supply the meals to 17 hubs set up across the province. The food will then be delivered to homes or a specific pick-up location by a network of volunteers, non-profit organizations and private-sector food delivery companies, the RFP states. 

They’ll deliver a five-day supply of food products for each student every week, with instructions on how to prepare the meals.

About 15,000 elementary and high school students are expected to use the program, the RFP says, but that number may fluctuate depending on economic conditions during and after the pandemic. 

The RFP says that during the 2018-19 school year, about 16 per cent of Manitoba’s student population — or 34,500 students — got support through a nutrition program.

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