Organizers of a ‘snack attack’ on B.C. classrooms are gearing up to roll out their initiative at a few Surrey schools by year’s end, motivated by a desire to help fill a gap in food programs that nourish struggling students.
The overall mission of the new White Rock-based organization behind the program, BC Feed the Kids Foundation – registered as a charity about a year ago – can be summed up in four simple words: feed bellies, fuel minds.
It began taking shape after a pair of local residents learned through a news story that one in three kids go to school hungry, “even in the affluent area that they live in.”
“There’s so many kids that live under the poverty line in B.C. and they thought this was sort of a problem outside of our community,” executive director Ngaire Leaf explained of the foundation’s roots.
“They didn’t realize it was so close to home. They felt they needed to help kids in their own neighbourhood, and sort of make people aware of the problem that is so close to home for so many people.”
From there, Joseph Prodor and Toni Ward got to work on creating the foundation, building it from scratch and enlisting the help of other, similar-minded locals – including father-and-son Mark and Sam McDonald, as well as White Rock restaurant owner, Tyson Blume, as directors – Leaf continued.
Throughout the process, everything they learned – including that Canada “is the only G7 country that doesn’t have a (government-funded) school food program in place” – only further motivated them.
“The more we looked into it, the more we found out how needed a food foundation is in our community, even though there’s so many other ones out there,” Leaf said.
Last year in Surrey, more than 3,800 meals were served each day through the school district’s meal program, funded by Community Links grants provided by the Ministry of Education, with further funding from donors.
Sources White Rock/South Surrey Food Bank also adds extra healthy food items to the hampers it distributes each week to families with school-aged children.
For Leaf, an eye-opening moment came during her professional-development work with the Langley school district, where she was employed for 15 years prior to taking the helm of the foundation at its Thrift Avenue office in uptown White Rock.
She said she noticed that often after conferences, many teachers would hang around to ask if there were any leftover snacks that they could have. Eventually, Leaf’s curiosity got the best of her, and she asked why, jokingly wondering if perhaps the teachers wanted them for their staff rooms.
“They said no, they need them for their classroom, because quite often they would be buying out of their own pockets for kids who needed more nourishment throughout the day,” Leaf said.
“The already-set-up food programs in the morning and sometimes lunch weren’t enough for these kids, so they were needing more food just in the classrooms, ready on hand in their desks to give to kids who were super hungry.”
Leaf, who has a daughter in kindergarten, said before she got involved with BC Feed the Kids Foundation, she just assumed there were enough programs in place that kids wouldn’t be hungry at school.
She said it’s “so heartbreaking” to know now that that simply isn’t the case.
While focused on its ‘Snack Attack’ program for now, the foundation has three other programs in the works: Hot Lunch; Fueling Minds; and Breakfast, Lunch & Snack Time. The last of those aims to help cover other “extra” costs for things like field trips and instrument rentals. Donations may be directed to any of the programs through the foundation’s website, bcfeedthekids.com
Leaf emphasized that the aim is to fill the gaps subtly, while taking the burden of nourishing kids off of teachers. For the snack program, the foods provided will be available to any student who wants a snack, to ensure that all students who need it will have access without fear of judgment.
“We’ve also learned a lot of kids will turn down food programs because they don’t want other kids knowing they’re in need,” she said. “So we’re really trying to make it all-inclusive.
“We don’t want kids being singled out,” she said.
To donate, or for information, visit bcfeedthekids.com
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