B.C. to provide 75,000 meals a week for K-12 students amid pandemic

B.C. to provide 75,000 meals a week for K-12 students amid pandemic
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BC is working with schools, non-profits and businesses to provide more than 75,000 meals a week to K-12 students.

B.C.’s school districts are finding new ways to provide families with more than 75,000 healthy meals a week, to help vulnerable students while in-class learning is suspended due to COVID-19.

Last month, B.C. cancelled in-class teaching at all schools and students relying on school-provided meals had to go without.

The government said that staff began using their resources, working with community organizations and local businesses, to ensure students who normally received meals at school would continue to have them at home.

“When in-school classes were suspended, finding ways to support vulnerable children and youth was top of mind for everyone,” said Teri Mooring, president of the BC Teacher’s Federation. “The K-12 sector is working extremely hard and I’m very proud of what’s happening in our communities.”

B.C.’s Minister of Education Rob Fleming says the entire province banded together to provide food for students to help ensure a lack of nutrition would not get in the way of an education.

“No student should ever have to go without food, whether they’re learning in class or at home,” said Fleming.

According to a government press release, teachers, education assistants, administrators and school support staff are putting together weekly grocery hampers for families, delivering food boxes and bagged lunches to homes and setting up designated hubs for meal pick-up.

Some school districts are also providing grocery store gift cards and vouchers, while others have formed partnerships with caterers, non-profits, restaurants, local businesses and food banks to support vulnerable families.

More than 16,000 families are receiving these services throughout the province, said the B.C. government.

“So many people are stepping up to make sure students are getting nutritious meals at home,” Fleming said. “This important work is giving vulnerable families throughout the province the support they need to help their children thrive away from the traditional classroom setting.”

School districts across the province are also developing their own plans to meet the needs of their communities.

One example is in the Cowichan Valley, as the school district teamed up with Shawnigan Lake school, Nourish Cowichan, Rotary and other community partners to deliver meals to students and families.

Another example is in Richmond on the mainland, the school district collaborated with its Feed-U-Cate-38 program, non-profits and local businesses to have groceries delivered straight to students’ houses.

Providing meals is just the latest step the province is taking in an effort to help education during the pandemic. Earlier this month, the province announced they were also funding free Zoom licences for teachers across B.C. to assist with learning from home.

Paul Faoro, president of CUPE BC, says it is not just teachers, but all staff joining together to help amid a pandemic.

“CUPE K-12 support staff including education assistants, custodians, bus drivers, clerical and IT (information technology), to name just a few, are here when you need us,” said Faoro. “Members throughout B.C. are stepping up to support students and their families through this pandemic. We’re all in this together.”

The Government of B.C. provides $53.2 million through CommunityLINK (Learning Includes Nutrition and Knowledge) annually for the province’s 60 school districts to support vulnerable students with services,  including meal programs. Twenty-five school districts also receive a combined $11.2 million from the Province through the Vulnerable Student Supplement, which addresses growth in vulnerable student populations.

In addition to CommunityLINK and Vulnerable Student Supplement funding, the Province is supporting families by shifting the focus of the B.C. School Fruit and Vegetable Nutritional Program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will deliver fruits and vegetables to low-income families with children through Food Banks BC, in partnership with schools and community-based youth programs.

Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence

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