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Richmond schools get $2.7 million to expand food programs

Canada is one of few developed countries that don't have school lunch programs.
Elementary school student with school lunch.

Richmond schools will get about $2.73 million to build and expand their food programs.

The province announced the Feeding Futures fund on Tuesday – a total of $214 million across the province over three years.

The funds will be used for purchasing food and hiring dedicated staff to co-ordinate providing meals and snacks to students, according to the province.

Debbie Tablotney, Richmond board chair, said this funding is an “important investment in the health and well-being of our students.”

“By expanding our school food programs, we can increase access to nutritious food,” Tablotney said in a press release.

“As a district, we are committed to ensuring that all students have access to the resources they need to succeed. We are grateful for this funding from the province and are excited to use this investment to support the well-being of our students."

Canada is the only country in the G7 that doesn’t have school lunch programs.

The provincial funding is good news for one Richmond parent who has been advocating for more school lunch programs.

Current programs – both for food and other assistance – however, can be hard for families to access, explained Gilmore elementary parent Chaslynn Gillanders.

In order to get school lunches for their children, families have to self-identify if they are food insecure.

Gillanders notes this can be stigmatizing for them as they have to approach the principal to explain their need.

“It’s sensitive,” she said. “As much as the principal is easy to approach, there’s that barrier.”

Similarly, $1.9 million the school district received in the fall to help families take part in field trips or to buy school supplies might not go to people in need because of the same barriers.

“I don’t see anything innovative,” she said. “It’s the same process – ‘contact us.’”

She has called on the school district to consult with parent advisory committees to find ways to distribute these funds.

The school district is looking at what their next steps will be in using the $2.73 million for food programs, explained school district spokesperson David Sadler.