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Extra produce gets turned into nutritious smoothies for students

April 21, 2021

Nurturing school breakfast programs also diverts less-than-perfect produce from landfill: It's a win-win.

School breakfast programs and Sobeys stores in PEI, from Summerside to Montague, have built partnerships that make great use of produce coming off of store shelves. They’re blending smoothies from fruit and vegetables that are still packed with nutrients, but have nowhere else to go.

Managing food waste through food recovery programs provides an opportunity to send good food where it’s most needed, while also redirecting it away from landfill systems.

“The kids haven’t tried a lot of the fruit that we send over before, but they aren’t picky. They’re interested in trying things that they haven’t had,” says Jeff Jenkins, store manager for the Allen Street store in Charlottetown, PEI.

Jenkins is speaking about the smoothies for students program that his store runs in partnership with nearby Prince Street Elementary School. For over 10 years, the school has been providing nutritious meals and healthy breakfast options for its students. And for two and a half years, Jenkins and Stratford store chef, Nathan Schoenfeldt, have been helping make that happen.


If it wasn’t for Sobeys’ support, I’m quite sure that we couldn’t offer our students the nutritious meals that we do.

Starting the day with a balanced smoothie

You might think serving smoothies with kale or spinach would come up against little noses wrinkled in distaste – but the reality is surprising. “We made smoothies with them, and they were surprised by how good they tasted. Hiding food can be great with kids!” Jenkins laughs. Schoenfeldt has also developed a library of smoothie recipes, which includes a smoothie formula: one part fruit, vegetable and liquid, blended with proteins like yogurt or nut butters, with healthy fats and fibre-rich ingredients to really round it out. Volunteers at the school tap that library to whip up morning drinks, giving kids a delicious menu of options that can change with the seasons.

Finding food waste solutions

“It started in 2018 during back to school,” Jenkins says. “The idea was spurred on by three areas: supporting our local schools, food recovery, and waste reduction.” Volunteers now come twice a week to pick up and sort the produce that has been boxed up. Apples, oranges, kale, spinach, pears, berries, grapes, kiwis, cherries are among what they might receive — it varies from week to week. “They’re getting anything and everything we’re not going to have out for sale that day,” says Jenkins. “We do our very best to nurture the families in our community,” Jenkins says. “Prince Street School is full of outstanding students and it’s our absolute pleasure to support their breakfast program. Not only does our partnership allow us to lend a helping hand to these in need, but it helps us save viable produce from our landfill system. It’s a win-win.”

Supporting the community

“We’re so excited to have Sobeys’ support,” says Natasha Bromley, Principal at Prince Street Elementary. “We know the value of such high-quality produce, and if it wasn’t for Sobeys’ support, I’m quite sure that we couldn’t offer our students the nutritious meals that we do.” As many as 50 students participate in the program at any given time, with access to fresh smoothies and breakfast options daily. Others deserve kudos too. The Summerside and Montague stores have also partnered with local schools to support vital breakfast programming. And the future is bright. Added provincial funding has made more programs available to ensure students get needed meals. And Jenkins plans to stay connected, to make sure Prince Street School has everything they need. “Personally, it’s nice to know in the food business that we can affect people’s lives on a lot of different levels. We’re there for all the special occasions, but we realize – especially during COVID – that it’s special to be able to provide this to our neighbours, friends and families.” With files from Tammy MacPhee, District Operator in PEI