Students often coming to school hungry and ill-prepared for the winter weather.
The impoverished teenagers Randy Horton cares for in the Sunrise Alternative program at Vancouver’s Templeton Secondary could use more food during the day and proper clothes to get them through the winter.
“Food availability at home? It’s extremely low. A lot of them do food banks,” said Horton, a youth and family worker who sees students coming to school each morning hungry.
Do they eat much when they go home?
“That we don’t know. We provide a hot lunch program, (paid for) through the school. But we want to have some food for them when they come in first thing in the morning.
“Right now, we just have some fruit and granola bars. It’s simple and basic, but we would like to get them toast and bagels and jam — something more substantial.”
Apart from the free lunch provided by the school district, he is unable to find help to provide food for breakfast or funds to clothe students trying to survive winter in cotton hoodies and “if I were to be blunt — beat-up and ripped running shoes.”
“The main thing they need is food and clothing, but it’s extremely difficult to get (funds for) that from outside agencies.”
Asked if he was getting any help from anywhere, he said no.
Horton is asking The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School campaign for $3,500 so he can lay on a breakfast each morning and buy winter coats, gloves, toques and footwear for the students who desperately need them.
“Winter clothing? None of them have any. They are ill-equipped for winter. And if it’s raining, they are always wet when they get here.
“We have umbrellas, but the kids will sometimes say, ‘I’m too cool for that.’”
His program doesn’t have a lot of classroom space and there is no room for a proper kitchen, so he will have to buy a toaster and a toaster-oven to go with the microwave he has.
He would also like to send food home with his students for the times they are without.
“We need to be able to do that. Right now, we grab extra lunches sometimes and send them home and it’s readily taken.
“Yeah, we’re trying.”
The situation facing Horton and his students can be found in all parts of the province.
Many parents existing on income assistance or disability payments or working at minimum wage jobs are finding it hard to feed and clothe their children.
Some schools are reporting a noticeable increase in the number of families needing help, which they attribute to job losses from the pandemic and the hardships caused by summer wildfires and the flooding this fall.
The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School campaign is designed to help teachers facing these problems every day, but with no funds to alleviate the suffering caused by hunger and lack of clothing.
Since Adopt-A-School began 10 years ago, more than $8 million has been sent directly to teachers and principals, enabling them to feed hungry students and buy clothes for those in need.
There are no administration costs deducted from donations, all of which goes to schools.
This year, a record number of schools are seeking help and requests total almost $2 million — an increase of nearly 50 per cent over last year.
SUNRISE ALTERNATIVE FUNDRAISING PAGE HERE
By Gerry Bellett (firstname.lastname@example.org)