Number of hungry kids triples this year at Nanaimo secondary school

Number of hungry kids triples this year at Nanaimo secondary school

“The north end of Nanaimo used to be an affluent area but that’s changed a bit.  We see a lot of families moving in here from Vancouver and the mainland because they can’t survive there.

A year ago staff at Dover Bay Secondary were relying on a food bank for supplies to feed breakfast to students coming to school hungry.

At first there were only 40 to 50 students a day looking for food out of a school population of 1,500.

But this year that number has tripled to 150 on some days and the program is collapsing, says Bernadette French, a child youth family support worker.

“There are not enough supplies at the food bank anymore,” she said.

“I used to go to the Nanaimo Food Bank and get whatever I could from what was left over after they sent supplies out to all the other food banks in the area.

“But the food bank has a lower supply of food than normal and there’s not much left.

“At one time I’d get five or six bags of bread but now I’ll get two,” said French.

She would also source food from the Nanaimo Ladysmith School Foundation which would provide juice boxes and apple sauce and coupons to purchase eggs and this year received a $300 grant from the school’s student council.

But it’s not enough to provide a proper breakfast for impoverished and hungry students now the numbers have jumped so dramatically.

“The problem is there is no real budget for food,” French said.

The school is asking for $6,600 from The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School campaign to provide breakfast each morning.

French said Nanaimo has high rates of poverty and some families are struggling to feed themselves.

“The north end of Nanaimo used to be an affluent area but that’s changed a bit.  We see a lot of families moving in here from Vancouver and the mainland because they can’t survive there.

“Also we are getting people here from Alberta.”

She said some families run out of money during the month and so there is no food in the house.

“Most of the problems are caused by poverty,” she said.

With the increase in numbers arriving at school hungry and a decrease in supplies — and with no money to buy food — the breakfast program has been reduced to a minimum and soon it will be down to just toast, she says.

“But even jam and peanut butter are expensive. If they want to put two spoonfuls of jam on a piece of toast instead of just one, how are you expected to stop them? They are teenagers, and they are hungry.

“If we don’t get help we’ll have to pull back breakfast back to just toast or close it down,” she said.

By Gerry Bellett (gbellett@gmail.com)

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