Suburban living doesn’t get much better than in Maple Ridge, says Trevor Connor, principal of Maple Ridge Secondary. And on a bright day in the midst of the tidy, well-kept homes that surround his school, it appears self-evident.
But – appearances notwithstanding – not everyone here is living the suburban dream.
“Because it’s such a nice suburban area, it doesn’t look like we need help,” Connor said of his school of 1,400 students.
“But we have two extremes.
We have so many kids who are very fortunate in life, but hidden underneath all this is a whole, huge, community of families that completely struggle.
“If I wanted to paint a realistic picture, I’d say that 20 per cent of our kids would be coming from homes, that, well …”
He leaves it for Daniel Rushton, one of the school’s two youth and child care workers, to fill in the blanks.
“I do home visits and I kind of get a sense of what some families are going through,” Rushton said. “For the most part it’s single parents – mums – not able to work because they have two or three other kids at home. I’ve got 44 kids on my caseload right now and, in at least half of them, the home environment isn’t very conducive, to well … let’s just say they are incredibly needy and the lack of food is an ongoing issue.”
So two years ago, using funds from the nearby Alliance Church, an emergency breakfast program was set up to feed hungry students once a week.
Last year, breakfast was increased to two days a week using an Adopt-A-School donation from an anonymous donor. This year, the school is applying to Adopt-A-School for $10,200 to provide another two days of breakfast each week.
Rushton has the cost down to $1.25 a head, providing pancakes and sausage; or a Ridge McMuffin – an English muffin filled with ham, cheese and egg; or French toast, all accompanied by fruit and a juice box.
However, before he can expand to four breakfasts a week, he needs more volunteers, at least another dozen.
Connor estimates there are at least 60 students coming to school hungry because there is no food at home. “And that means they don’t have anything for lunch either,” he said.
By Gerry Bellett (firstname.lastname@example.org)