Terrace school’s breakfast, lunch program at risk

Terrace school’s breakfast, lunch program at risk

Terrace Middle School needs $10,000 from The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School campaign to get through the year.

Sonja Donnan is seeing an increasing number of students arrive at Skeena Middle School hungry each day, and the worry is she’s going to run out of the money she has available to feed them.

“The numbers keep growing. We do have some money … but it is not enough to cover the food we need,” she said.

Donnan is the school’s vice-principal and is trying to feed breakfast and lunch to as many as 75 students a day.

Last year when her food fund dried up, she was using rental money derived from renting out the gym and profits raised from the school’s canteen operations to keep feeding students.

That won’t be enough for this year.

Breakfast comes courtesy of a Breakfast Club of Canada donation, but lunch is being run on a shoestring and she needs $10,000 from The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School campaign to get through the year.

This the only middle school in town and has 570 students in Grades 7 to 9.

While many in town are employed at the Alcan smelter in nearby Kitimat, there is still a lot of poverty among families living on social assistance or existing on minimum wage jobs.

“Poverty is pretty high. Even people with jobs are struggling to make ends meet. Rent is ridiculous here. I saw a trailer advertised for $2,100 a month — for a trailer in a trailer park.

“One bedroom apartments go from $1,400 to $1,500 a month. For some families, that’s where their money is going.”

Some families existing on minimum wage jobs are being forced into shared accommodation.

“We have multiple families living in the same house — a bunch of cousins and nine kids to a home — because families are sharing rent.”

Rents skyrocketed once “a couple of big companies bought up every place on the market” after news of an LNG plant being built in the area was announced, she said.

This created a housing shortage, allowing landlords to increase rents.

The result of housing inflation can be seen in the number of children now arriving at school hungry.

“People’s money is going to rent. That’s where we are at.”

With Adopt-A-School’s help this year, she could provide these children with a better lunch and sustain the program until the end of June.

“Right now, it’s baloney or egg salad sandwiches. (Some weeks ago) we had a donation of baby carrots and I went and bought some hummus and celery so they could have chickpeas as a protein instead of just baloney which is the only meat we can afford.

“I’d love to be able to do something hot in the winter for them — make a big pot of chilli and buns. There are lots of healthy options, if we had the money.”

The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School campaign is dedicated to raising money to help schools deal with impoverished children coming to school hungry or in need of clothing. Since the program began in 2011, more than $8 million has been sent to schools unable to feed hungry students.



By Gerry Bellett (gbellett@gmail.com)

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