It’s a trek of 90 kilometres down Highway 28 from this central Vancouver Island village to reach any source of fresh produce.
Natasha Toth would like to have a hot breakfast available to serve hungry children entering Ray Watkins Elementary in the morning, but she doesn’t have the staff or resources to pull it off.
“I don’t have the infrastructure to be able to do it,” said Toth, the school’s principal.
The school, which has a small, inadequate kitchen, is also without the means to provide lunch for students, except for once a month.
“The local First Nation band generously provides the money for that,” she said.
So on the basis that if you can’t have a full loaf, half-a-loaf is better than none, she wants to provide healthy snacks and fruit and vegetables for each class in her small 105-pupil school.
“Many of our students come from low-income families, and we have noticed in the last couple of years a number of students come to school with no lunch or very little food,” said Toth.
That would cover three-quarters of her students who either bring little food or junk food to get them through the day.
“Being able to provide daily healthy classroom snacks would benefit the whole school,” she said. “I would like to provide daily fruits and veggies and have supplies of yoghurt, cheese and crackers that we can keep in the lunch room to be handed out to students who need a lunch or extra food.”
It’s a trek of 90 kilometres down Highway 28 from this central Vancouver Island village to reach any source of fresh produce, which likely goes some way to explain the lack of vegetables and fruit in the children’s daily diet.
“We have to drive to Campbell River. There’s no grocery store in town, just a little corner store,” Toth said.
And the area is economically depressed.
“I don’t know what a lot of people do, because in the community there aren’t a ton of jobs.
“Some people might still log, some might still fish. But there isn’t a lot of income. People are getting by on the bare minimum and there are a lot of big families.
“Some people don’t have cars or they don’t have gas for a car, so that’s another limitation on them getting fresh food,” she said.
She is asking The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School campaign for $5,000 to help her feed these children.
Toth is hoping that providing extra food will increase the academic performance of students.
“Academically, our students are some of the lowest (performing) in the province. Coming to school hungry and spending the day hungry does not allow them to focus on school work or learn at the levels they should be performing at,” said Toth.
“As a small, rural school we don’t have a large enough kitchen or work force to provide a breakfast or lunch program.”
The mission of the Adopt-A-School campaign, which is administered by the board of The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund, is to feed and clothe impoverished children at school.
Since Adopt-A-School began in 2011, more than $8 million has been sent to hundreds of schools throughout the province.
This year, the number of schools seeking help has jumped by 46 per cent from last year, with requests totalling $1.9 million.
RAY WATKINS ELEMENTARY FUNDRAISING PAGE HERE
By Gerry Bellett (email@example.com)