As Canadian food prices continue to rise, put pressure on family As they try to buy groceries, pay rent and make a living, nutrition programs in schools across the country say they are struggling to feed an increasing number of needy students.
Canada’s Breakfast Club is one of a national program reaching more than 580,000 children, and the Meal Program, which supports more than 3,500 schools, typically saw an average of 30 to 50 students pre-pandemic. 40% were participating.
Food prices remain high, with “some people approaching 60 to 75 percent of the average population across schools,” said Judith Barry, co-founder of the Breakfast Organization, in Montreal.
Food prices influence school nutrition programs. That’s because operators “can’t get the same amount of food of the same value” that they need, said Barry, who is also the group’s director of government relations.
Some people face difficult choices, such as serving less food or running programs less often.
After nearly three turbulent years, Adapting to restrictions and lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic, school nutrition programs across the country are now suffering from another crisis. Rising food costs, coupled with a surge in the number of students requiring daily meals.
For program operators, the federally promised nationwide school feeding program won’t happen anytime soon.
“School lunch is an indispensable service”
“People around the world know that children do not learn if they are not well fed,” said Debbie Field, coordinator of the Coalition for Healthy School Food. A nutritious school lunch.
“School lunches are an essential service.”
Field, who is also an associate member of the Center for Food Security Studies at Toronto Metropolitan University, emphasized how important school breakfast, lunch and snack programs were when in-person classes were closed at various points early in the pandemic. said he did. For many students.
Provincial, territorial, and some municipal governments help fund nutrition programs in schools, and Canada has “many creative people who run food programs across the country.” The system needs more.
“As food prices rise, we need more core funding for school feeding programs,” she said.
In Toronto, John Yang, executive director of the Angel Foundation for Learning, said he hopes to increase the support charities provide to more than 180 student nutrition programs that feed 61,000 students each day. Busy with ongoing funding discussions and new initiatives.
The Foundation collects financial contributions from a variety of sources including government level, private donors and fundraising campaigns with corporate partners. For example, a grocery retailer running a Toonies for Tummies appeal.
Some schools have doubled the number of participants in their food programs, Yan said, as these businesses focus on fresh, healthy offerings and are required to follow specific nutritional guidelines, so staff You may have to pay higher food prices.
“In many schools, that one snack or meal may be the only nutritious food a student or child can have for the day,” he said.
Last week, the Foundation provided $60,000 in emergency funding to 12 school feeding programs in the city. Prior to the pandemic, requests for additional funds typically arrived near the end of the school year, Yan said.
“If we’ve already replenished our emergency fund in January, I can’t imagine what it will be like when May and June come.
The need is growing, principal says
Whether it’s welcoming a new family member or helping serve pizza at lunchtime, Edmonton principal Maureen Matthews has made a strong case for the need for a free snack and lunch program at Norwood School, a public school near downtown. I’m seeing first-hand that sex is on the rise.
“Last year, just over 180 students accessed the school’s nutrition program, and this year we have well over 220,” she said.
Matthews also said, “We’re also seeing more and more families coming in to enroll their students asking if we have a lunch program.” provides it.”
Delivered through the support of Edmonton-based nonprofit charity E4C, Norwood’s program operates on a “get what you need” model. On any given day, 225 students may be using meals. The next day, 200 students may need snacks, lunch, or both.
“We do not want to blame people who are experiencing food insecurity,” said Kelly Bickford, manager of E4C’s community and school-based programs. Essential for success.
“If [students] Their family can’t afford them, so they need some fruits and vegetables, but they have access to them. can….we have the ability and understanding [the students] You know you can access it when you need it, how you need it. ”
Find more sources of income
In Newfoundland and Labrador, the St. John’s-based school lunch association expanded this month, serving more than 7,000 nutritious lunches each day. The company is stepping up services at his 41 locations, and more properties want to join. Pricing is based on a pay-as-you-go model (a conservative suggested price of $4 per lunch meal).
But while more students are signing up for lunches, the group is also seeing an increase in the proportion of participants who can’t pay for lunches, said executive director John Finn.
“There are a lot of parents who reach out…and they send a personal email saying: ‘Hey, I won’t get paid until next week. Donate when you can.’ or “I just lost my job.” These are tough times. I usually pay full price,” he said.
Before the pandemic, about 90% of the income needed to operate the association came from sales, with the rest coming from donations and state grants.
With sales accounting for 78-80% this semester, there is a shortage of funds, while the association’s food and supply costs have increased by 11% and 17% respectively. This is after food costs have already risen by 20% and supply costs have risen by 25% in the 2021-22 school year.
“It’s like a double-edged sword,” Finn said. Enrollment numbers are increasing, but they are “absorbing additional food and supply costs, which in turn actually reduces the amount of revenue they would normally achieve. [from families paying].”
Recent efforts to reduce the association’s operating costs include fine-tuning menu items, discovering new vendors, and increasing price negotiations with existing vendors.
Staff are looking for additional sources of income. New donors, additional government grants, charitable lottery licenses, and more. Finn also said he hopes to see movement in school feeding programs across the country in this year’s federal budget.
Recent consultations on national programs
“We have a patchwork of programs supported by the private, private and community sectors, which is great, but we also need more,” said Barry, co-founder of The Breakfast Club. .
“National school feeding policies can really help build on what already exists—the existing ecosystem—and help reach more students and more communities.”
More than 5,000 participants, including program organizers, parents, volunteers and teachers, participated in a consultation on the national school feeding program that concluded in December, said Karina Gould, Federal Family, Children and Social Development. The minister said he was entrusted with an investigation. Program with Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibault.
Next is a report to gather information, aimed at developing a program “that works nationally and addresses the unique needs of each state or territory”, which she added, too, should be presented to her. I was. A colleague from Ottawa.
Gould believes this is a natural follow-up to the daycare programs adopted across Canada last year, and believes the recent success of the partnership can inspire confidence in similar joint efforts across governments. ing.
“We truly believe that school feeding is an additional pillar of success for all children in Canada.”