First thing tomorrow (Thursday) morning, Blundell elementary’s gymnasium turns into a Great Hall, serving a morning meal to about 50 students for the launch of its breakfast program at 8 a.m.
The club, like many in other Richmond schools, responds to the growing number of kids going hungry in the city.
“Twenty-five per cent of students at Blundell are not getting proper access to food,” said Daylene Marshall, manager of special projects at Richmond Youth Services Agency (RYSA), which has partnered with Blundell. “The principal said about one in four families struggle financially and kids go hungry, which is about average in Richmond. But we found there’s a higher concentration in that neighbourhood.”
Besides providing a healthy breakfast, the Blundell club, which will be held twice a week, educates the students about nutrition and includes games, as well. Family members are invited once a month to meet each other and learn recipe tips.
“The point is to create a sense of community,” Marshall said. “The school is very diverse, both financially and culturally. This will encourage kids to say hello in the hallways and make parents comfortable coming into the school.”
RYSA will also help connect different community organizations with the school.
Breakfast clubs aren’t a new concept for schools in Richmond, but their funding and therefore consistency is always precarious.
Last October, the Board of Education presented its child poverty survey to city council, which comprised anecdotal responses from teachers and administrators. The results showed 20 per cent perceived an increase in poverty levels at their schools, compared to eight per cent who perceived a decrease. Thirty per cent or less had a hot lunch, breakfast club or homework club in place.
At the time, one of the problems faced was maintaining a breakfast club. One started by a PAC member might not continue the following year if that member left, for example. Funding also depends on the financial capability of the school.
It’s something Glenn Kishi, a retired school district administrator, wants to change with his Feed-U-Cate 38 program — a funding initiative hoping to provide money to keep these clubs running.
“Last spring, I noticed some of these schools were looking in Vancouver to get grants, and I started thinking, why do they have to go to Vancouver?” said Kishi. “Richmond can help. I know the business community and the general community will donate if they’re made aware that kids are going hungry.”
Recently retired, Kishi hasn’t had the chance to “really hit the pavement” yet, but has so far raised about $3,000 from school fundraisers in the spring and a Sutton Realty golf tournament.
He hopes to start funding programs soon and plans on getting the figure to about $15,000-$20,000 each year — which is on average the amount schools are currently spending.
“I’m going to put it out there and ask the schools to respond with their need,” he said. “I know some have made arrangements with food providers, and I don’t want to step on any toes, but hopefully we can coordinate something district-wide. Buying things in bulk would be less expensive.”
A program like Feed-U-Cate (a play on the word educate) would help Blundell, which received a $10,000 grant from the Richmond Community Foundation and $2,000 from the Sunrise Rotary Club. However, funding lasts for the year, leaving the program to look for corporate and individual donors.
“A district-wide program would be helpful,” said Marshall. “We just stepped in now because there was a need at the school. But I’d like to see this at all schools and five days a week.”
The school is looking for volunteers, non-perishable breakfast item donations, grocery gift cards, cash donations and sponsors. Those wishing to donate, can email Marshall at email@example.com.
To donate to Feed-U-Cate 38, email Kishi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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