Tillicum community school Grade 1 student Nolan Nyvall

School meal programs prove popular – and necessary

Donation highlights need for free breakfasts, lunches in urban schools

Sandy Matthews knows the impact an empty stomach has on a seven-year-old’s concentration.

As the Greater Victoria School District’s CommunityLINK facilitator, she’s in charge of co-ordinating in-school programs that help vulnerable students.

One such offering is the school meals program, which aims to feed students who come to school without breakfast or lunch.

“We see the difference every day from kids that are being fed. Teachers see them being able to focus more, it helps their learning, they’re happier on the playground, they’re less likely to get into arguments,” Matthews said.

“When kids come to school hungry, it’s hard for them to cope. This is a really vital program.”

The Greater Victoria district offers a variety of meals programs at a number of schools in the region.

Twelve schools have full breakfast programs, where kids can get toast, nut butter, cheese and juice, another 12 receive a cold lunch program, and five have a catered hot lunch program, altogether serving hundreds if not more than a thousand kids throughout the city.

“(The cold lunch program is) grab-and-go, brown paper bag lunch that goes to the neediest of the needy; the kids who might come to school without lunch,” Matthews said. “These kids will quietly go into the office and pick up a lunch.”

The hot lunch program is pay-what-you-can, so some parents pay full price to have their kid receive a well-rounded, nutritious meal every day, while others are partially or fully subsidized.

“I think a lot of Victorians would be surprised to know this is needed, because people don’t equate Victoria with poverty,” Matthews said. “There’s a huge number of working poor, and I think those are the ones we’re assisting most.”

Lori Burley, principal at Tillicum community school, says the meals program is an invaluable asset for her students. About 120 kids, or about half the school, use the service each day.

“It means we’re able to meet the basic needs so they’re better prepared to come to school, be at school and be focused on the learning, rather than on the basic necessities of life,” Burley said. “It provides us an opportunity to develop a more nurturing, welcoming environment where everyone recognizes a child’s basic needs are being met.”

On Wednesday, the Vancouver Island Greek Community Society cooked the students and staff at Tillicum a traditional lunch – souvlaki, tzatziki, tiropita.

“I wish we had Greek lunch every day,” said an excited Nolan Nyvall, 6, after cleaning off his plate.

The society, in co-operation with Saanich firefighters, also presented the school with a $3,000 cheque – proceeds raised during last year’s Greek Fest – that will go towards financing Tillicum’s meals program.

“It’s really overwhelming to see the need and the reception we got from the children and the school,” said Michael Ikonomou, president of the VIGCS. “Greek Fest is long gone, but we’re still doing things in our community.”

Burley said the money will go a long way to assist the school, which also offers snacks three times a day, as well as an after-school program that includes two nutritional breaks.

The meals program also includes educational components, where students learn about balanced lifestyles and healthy diets.

Matthews said the district is always looking to make more connections with service groups and businesses in the community that may wish to provide assistance.

“We would be looking for financial assistance, donation of time or even donation of goods,” she said. “This is a wonderful community-building exercise. We all see the really positive benefits of when these kids are fed.”

Organizations interested in supporting the school meals program are encouraged to contact Matthews at 250-475-4241.

kslavin@saanichnews.com

 

 

Just Posted

VicPD honours seven citizens for their courage and dedication

Civic Service Awards presented at ceremony in Hall of Honour

‘It’s just hair:’ Central Saanich woman chops her locks for Wigs for Kids

Wigs for Kids BC will receive two 12-inch braids from Brentwood Bay resident Liza Glynn

Oak Bay volunteer fair aims to sow seeds of giving time

Oak Bay Volunteer Services hopes to attract the next generation

New orca calf in Salish Sea ‘healthy and active’

Birth cause for celebration but things still dire genetically, expert says

POLL: Should people have to license their cats?

The Victoria Natural History Society has sent letters to 13 municipalities in… Continue reading

Second fatal crash occurs in Alberni Valley

Traffic on Highway 4 is being re-routed as investigators are en route

Indigenous energy summit includes session on pipeline ownership options

Steven Saddleback of the Indian Resource Council says a session will feature presentations on financing models

Japanese grand champion Kisenosato retires from sumo

The 32-year-old Kisenosato was the first Japanese-born wrestler in 19 years to gain promotion to sumo’s highest rank

UPDATE: Accused B.C. high school killer found fit to stand trial

Gabriel Klein is accused in the 2016 stabbing death of Letisha Reimer at Abbotsford Senior Secondary

Right-wing, neo-Nazi, white supremacist groups an increasing concern: Goodale

Ten people died in April 2018 when Alek Minassian allegedly drove a rental van down the busy stretch in Toronto

Canadian stock exchanges to conduct lottery for ‘POT’ ticker amid high demand

The symbol became available after fertilizer Potash Corp. officially merged with Agrium Inc. in early 2018

VIDEO: Mattress fire at Cowichan Hospital under investigation

The Cowichan District Hospital was locked down on Tuesday afternoon due to… Continue reading

Most Read