There is something deeply wrong in British Columbia and with our government that thousands of children are hungry and school districts are forced to beg private donors for food on their behalf.
The Vancouver school district feeds breakfast and lunch to 5,000 elementary and secondary school children every day. But it says there are another 2,000 who are going hungry. It would cost $1.7 million to feed those 2,000 kids. It’s money the district doesn't have.
How many kids in other school districts are hungry and going unfed is an open question because most others haven’t done a detailed school-by-school analysis as Vancouver has. But it’s definitely not just a Vancouver problem.One in five B.C. children is growing up in poverty, according to 2012 Statistics Canada data. That’s 169,240 children.
And, while there are pockets of extreme poverty in Vancouver, the Central Coast Regional District has the highest rate with 54.8 per cent of children living in low-income families.Hungry adults can be hard to identify because they often try to hide it.
But children? They’re visible, especially to teachers.
Many are young enough not to be ashamed to say that they’re hungry and they’ve had no breakfast and there’s no food for lunch.But even if they don’t, their hunger shows up in other ways: poor marks, the inability to focus, the anger and frustration that are manifest when the body screams out for nourishment. The Vancouver school district spends $4.4 million on food programs. Of that, the $300,000 for breakfast programs already comes from by private donations either directly or through charities like The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-a-School.
The provincial government provides $2.4 million in Community Links grants for lunch programs, while parents who can afford it provide another $1.7 million.Yet it’s clearly not enough if 2,000 kids are still without food.
Canada is one of the few developed countries without a national poverty reduction program. So, as poverty in Canada has increased, it’s charity — not taxes — that has filled the gaps.
Before 1981, there were no food banks in Canada. Since then, their use has risen exponentially. Since 2008, the number of British Columbians using food banks has increased by 25 per cent since 2008.
Of the 97,000 B.C. citizens reliant on food banks, one-third are children.
WANT TO READ MORE?: CHILDREN AND POVERTY IN CANADA