Shelley Fralic: Ten years of feeding hungry children, thanks to Vancouver Sun readers

Shelley Fralic: Ten years of feeding hungry children, thanks to Vancouver Sun readers

Opinion: Adopt-a-School is now the No. 1 provider of food to public schoolchildren in B.C.

You know the child poverty statistics, because we write about them frequently in this newspaper.

You know the need is greater than ever, that the grey pall of COVID-19 has only brought more hardship to people already struggling to make ends meet.

You know that while we live in one of the most beautiful and bountiful parts of the world, there are many among us whose scant resources simply do not meet their basic needs.

You know, too, that children of poverty are the hardest hit when the necessities of food, shelter and clothing are hard to come by because your parents have lost their job or have to make every dollar stretch.

And you know that every year at this time, The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund and its decade-old Adopt-A-School program, is once again reaching out to you — our readers — asking for your support, so that we, in turn, can help those who need it most.

Because you have never let us down.

Not since 1981, when The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund registered charity was created and began telling stories and raising money to help needy children.

Not in 2011, when Vancouver inner city school teacher Carrie Gelson reached out to the public, and ultimately this newspaper, because her students were arriving at school hungry, and desperate for warm clothing during winter.

For decades, the generosity of Sun readers has improved daily life for millions of B.C. youth, by funding programs for physically and mentally challenged kids, by funding children’s charities that otherwise would have fallen short of their goals and, in more recent years, by allowing us to grant more than $6.5 million to hundreds of public schools all over B.C. so that hungry children can eat nutritious meals when they might otherwise go without.

When you step back and consider those numbers, and think about the children that have benefited, it’s an astonishing achievement.

But we do wonder, every year as we launch our annual campaign, if that support will continue, if our readers will step up as they always have once we start telling the stories of hardship.

So we cross our fingers and hope for the best.

In the meantime, here are a few things worth considering.

The first is that every penny donated to The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund goes directly to help children. Our overhead — which is minimal, consisting of a part-time administrator and accounting and legal expenses to fulfil our fiduciary requirements — does not come out of donations but instead from interest earned on a $3.6-million endowment.

The second — and this one might surprise you — is that Adopt-a-School is now the No. 1 provider of food to public schoolchildren in B.C.

The No. 1 provider.

Last year’s campaign alone raised and distributed $1 million to feed hungry school kids, and this past spring our COVID-19 Emergency Fund raised and granted an additional $775,000 for strapped families during school closures.

That’s right. You — our readers — are the primary reason that thousands of schoolchildren today are not going hungry, but instead are being given their best chance to learn, and thrive.

We are proud of that, even though we wish there was no need for what we do, even though we know there is more need than ever before, even though we think that our governments — as they do in so many other countries — should step in and use our tax dollars to fund breakfast and lunch programs, acknowledging that food security is a vital component of the curriculum.

I am proud to have been a board member of The Vancouver Children’s Fund since the beginning, and to witness first-hand what reader generosity has achieved.

I have seen the look on a six-year-old’s face when he sits down for breakfast before class, and the relief it brings to teachers who know the difference it makes. I have seen what it means to a 12-year-old girl to put on a warm coat, gloves and boots to head out into the cold after school.

And while it was truly an honour to be part of The Vancouver Sun’s talented team of journalists for 41 years, and contribute to these pages, my other career legacy is perhaps the one that really counts.

For I have been part of something much bigger, in my own small way, part of making a child’s life better. And happier. And healthier.

And for that, dear readers, I have you to thank.

By Shelley Fralic (shelleyfralic@gmail.com)

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