School District 47 is making sure students go to class well-nourished.
Director of instruction Kristen Brach said that when students return to school this month, food will be provided to ensure no pupils are going hungry.
“We’ve always provided food at school but what we were trying to do is make it more consistent across schools,” said Brach. “We have provided some funds and some additional staffing to help purchase the food and prepare the food and whatever else needs to take place.”
Brach said there is some variation at schools but efforts are being made to streamline the process as much as possible.
“Schools have something before school, at recess and lunch,” said Brach. “Ensuring students have a full stomach is really important.”
Before COVID-19, food programs in schools involved a lot of volunteers, but with the onset of the pandemic, the school district couldn’t have volunteers in the schools.
“That became a bit of a barrier,” said Brach. “I think there are still some volunteers involved but it is not dependent on volunteers anymore. It works with staff being able to provide those services.”
The program is in place to ensure children who need nourishment and may not be getting it from home are fed. However, the school district does not want there to be stigma attached to participation, so no one is turned away, said Brach.
“Food is provided for anyone who needs it,” said Brach.
The program is funded through the school district through the provincial ministry of education’s CommunityLINK fund.
“It’s intended to support these kinds of initiatives,” said Brach. “It’s great.”
The program was introduced throughout the school district in a more formalized way in the spring of last year.
“As with anything we start in the middle of the year, we’re just trying to make it work – it’s not as structured and organized,” said Brach. “This year, I think it will be even more rich.”
Brach said poverty exists in the qathet region and there is a real need for the food program. A child poverty report card indicated 27 per cent of local children live in poverty, she added.
“It’s definitely needed in our community,” said Brach.
Menus for the students result from consultation following recommendations of the BC school food guidelines, so there are a number of suggestions as to what entails healthy food.
“We are really trying to provide more of the best categories within those healthy food guidelines,” said Brach. “We are not just providing food, but we are providing something that is healthy as well. That’s where hiring the staff has been great, with the support, because much of that involves more preparation and planning.”