Wealthy neighbourhoods don’t protect schoolkids from poverty

Wealthy neighbourhoods don’t protect schoolkids from poverty

This year’s campaign has received 204 applications — mostly from schools — seeking financial help so they can care for impoverished children arriving at school hungry or without proper winter clothes or in need of other necessities.

Inglewood Alternative Secondary might be sitting in the heart of one of the wealthiest enclaves in B.C. — with Ambleside to the east and Dundarave to the west — but that doesn’t insulate it from the effects of poverty.

Of the 30 students who attend this West Vancouver school, 25 could be counted as in need of food support, says principal Corrine Kinnon.

“We need to talk about invisible poverty as we have a wide range of socio-economic status in this area.”

There are families here struggling with the cost of living and the price of rent, trying to make do on minimum wage jobs or social assistance. Their economic status aside, what students have in common is a need for the specialized help and expertise that Inglewood’s staff provides — something that would not be available to them in a traditional secondary school.

If they were left to cope in a traditional school, a number would not be attending classes, says Kinnon.

“We have an inclusive program here. We take students who might have mental health issues, anxiety, substance use. We have some students with autism diagnosis, and some with different kinds of designation or cognitive abilities,” she said.

Most are coming to school hungry and Kinnon needs to feed them.

“We have students who haven’t eaten breakfast,” she explained. “Some — when we talk about their executive functioning — for them to think about preparing breakfast and getting themselves ready to get to school, that’s not part of their thinking process. Just getting dressed takes a lot of their energy.”

Then there are those that have nothing to eat at home.

So Kinnon needs $7,500 from The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School campaign to provide breakfast, dinner and snacks to keep them going during the day.

A portion of the money will buy grocery gift cards to help families in cases of emergencies when there is no food at home.

“There was never a food program here until last year when I applied to Adopt-A-School,” she said.

Previously, students were expected to bring their own food, but Kinnon said it has become necessary to feed them.

“Our program is evolving. We are also trying to teach them to cook and how to make healthy food choices and how to plan a meal,” she said. “It’s important because some of them will be living on their own and we are trying to help them transition to adulthood.”

One hundred per cent of all money raised is reserved to help children. No administration costs are deducted from donations.

By Gerry Bellett (gbellett@gmail.com)

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