Vancouver beefs up child meal program for schools

What a great idea considering all the cuts school districts are experiencing these days. Click here to learn more or read an excerpt below.


Vancouver will spend $655,000 over the next two years to beef up annual breakfast and lunch programs for the city’s most vulnerable children.

Adding to a program already operating with the aid of the province, private donors and non-profit agencies that provides free lunches to about 1,400 students and breakfasts for 820, the city says it will spend $320,000 in 2016 to add another 258 meals daily, as well as upgrade at least three school kitchens. This year it will spend $50,000.

The city also plans to give Strathcona Community Centre $80,000 a year to stabilize a breakfast program that feeds 120 elementary school children daily.

And in a show of how important the city regards child poverty, the city wants to spend another $125,000 on evaluating, planning and developing school meal programs they say will be more effective and sustainable.

The money stems from an election pledge Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson made in 2014 to strengthen support for the school food program. It took notice of the fact that groups like The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School program were stepping in with much-needed public donations.

In one of its first council meetings after the election, Robertson’s re-elected Vision majority approved a plan to give the school board $400,000 a year for its meal programs. But disbursement of the money was held up this year while a plan was formulated. As a result, only $255,000 will be handed out in 2015, with the full amount on the books starting next year.

The school board’s meals programs have largely been funded through the provincial government’s CommunityLink program, which provides a range of non-instructional community-based services to students and families. Of the $8.9 million the school board received last year, $2.4 million went to funding lunch and breakfast programs. That money is in addition to private donation programs such as Adopt-A-School.

The city’s financial support for the school board’s student food programs is a reflection of the intransigent poverty that afflicts many parts of the city. In the Strathcona neighbourhood, 70 per cent of children live in poverty, said Mary Clare Zak, the managing director of social policy, in a report going to council next week.

In 2011, one-third of those using food banks in B.C. were children and youth and more than one in five children in Vancouver live in low-income families, she said.

This isn’t the first time the city has dipped its toe into funding school food programs. In 1988, the Non-Partisan Association council of Gordon Campbell gave the school board $200,000 for what eventually became a $600,000-a-year hot lunch program. The city’s annual commitments continued for a few years but eventually the provincial government and others took over funding student food programs.

Zak said the fact that such programs are still in place nearly 30 years later shows how poverty is so ingrained.

“What it tells me is that the root cause of poverty has not been addressed,” she said. “The issue here is it is about poverty, about families who are receiving income assistance rates and we know those rates are not enough to feed themselves the nutrition they need on a daily basis. They have become reliant on food banks and school lunch programs.”





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