By the end of October, the breakfast program feeding hungry and impoverished high school students at Britannia Secondary was on life support and about to switched off.
“We are out of money,” said principal Alec MacInnes.
The program, which feeds about 25 students and siblings, has been available to students for a number of years thanks to a grant from The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School program, but the money ran out at the end of the last school year.
MacInnes, who is the new principal at the school at Commercial and Cotton Drive, was reduced to dipping into other school accounts to keep the much-needed program afloat.
But he can’t keep doing that.
“We’ve run the account into the negative, our grant is exhausted,” he said.
Breakfast was stopped for a short time, but students were showing up hungry looking for food.
“There wasn’t a strong backlash, but I made a decision to keep it going,” he said.
Without funds — except what he could scrape out of other accounts — he and Ron Scott, the community school coordinator, have not been able to provide the proper kind of breakfast they would like to give.
“If we get help, we want to give them a hot breakfast at least once a week, and bump up what we give them,” said Scott.
Breakfast is an important help for students whose families are on income assistance or struggling on minimum-wage jobs. Often, paying the rent and providing adequate food for their children is a challenge.
“Food security for many of our families is a bit tenuous,” he said.
The school needs $30,000 to provide breakfast for the next three years and has requested the help of The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund, which runs the Adopt-A-School annual appeal.
Since it began in 2011, Adopt-A-School has raised more than $3.8 million to feed and clothe schoolchildren whose families are living in poverty.
Britannia, with a student population of around 640, was among the first schools helped.
Many students live in apartment complexes and social housing in the Raycam area of East Hastings, and some come from the Downtown Eastside.
A third of Britannia’s families have an income below $30,000 a year, and 30 per cent are on income assistance.
Scott said the breakfast program was an integral part of helping students be successful in school.
“Families chose to send their children to this school because this is a safe place where they can seek help and support, and Adopt-A-School is part of that.
“Kids can’t be prepared to succeed at school if they are hungry, so being fed is a support for learning. It also gets them into school. Food is a gentle pull,” he said.
Breakfast is generally provided at elementary schools in the area, such as Strathcona, which feeds students and families with help from Adopt-A-School.
“They get fed in Strathcona, but kids don’t stop being hungry because they’ve transitioned into high school,” said Scott.
In order to prevent the school from having to close its program, The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund has advanced an emergency grant of $5,000.
Vancouver Sun and Province editor-in-chief Harold Munro, who is chair of the children’s fund board, said the money would tide the school over while the Adopt-A-School campaign tries to raise the rest of the $30,000.
“We know how important this program is for some families, and we need to support it,” said Munro. “We are hoping that our campaign raises enough so that every school that is asking for our help gets it.”
By Gerry Bellett (firstname.lastname@example.org)