This year’s Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School campaign resulted in a record $923,774 being sent to 129 schools across the province to feed, clothe and provide for impoverished children and their families.
It is the largest amount distributed since the campaign began in 2011.
The money helps teachers and school staff who are dealing with children suffering from the effects of poverty and enables them to provide breakfast or lunch or food at weekends.
Since 2011 The Sun’s campaign has distributed $4,720,628 to hundreds of B.C. schools.
“This year our readers have responded magnificently. Their generosity has been overwhelming and everyone who helped us with a donation has my deepest gratitude,” said Harold Munro, editor in chief of The Vancouver Sun and Province.
“The plight of these children and their families is a major social issue. This newspaper’s editorial policy is that government must recognize there are thousands of children coming to school hungry everyday and do something to alleviate it,” said Munro.
“It should not be left solely in the hands of sympathetic teacher volunteers and the charity of the public.”
Of the 36 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) — an association of the world’s most economically advanced nations — only Canada doesn’t have a national program to feed hungry schoolchildren.
Last year the U.S. federal government’s National School Lunch Program spent $13.6 billion to feed impoverished children. This is in addition to its School Breakfast Program for needy children whose budget for this year is $4.2 billion.
Many of this year’s donors have supported the program for a number of years.
Murray Clemens, QC., whose staff in the law firm Nathanson Schachter and Thompson LLP has donated more than $100,000 over the years, said they do it because Adopt-A-School makes a “measurable impact” on the lives of children.
“Having a balanced meal makes a difference in these kids’ lives … we see it every year in the feedback from the schools,” said Clemens.
Former provincial cabinet minister Carole Taylor, another long time supporter who donated $60,000 this year, said hunger “undermines everything we need to do to help our children grow and learn and prosper.”
“It makes concentration in class impossible, affects physical and mental development and dramatically limits what our teachers can accomplish. It’s imperative we do what we can to feed our children,” she said.
While the majority of the Adopt-A-School money is sent to feed thousands of students who come to school without breakfast or with no lunch to get them through the day, it is also providing clothes or other necessities parents can’t afford such as prescription drugs, lice kits, or in some cases, weekend food.
The money pays for school trips for
children who would otherwise not share the same experiences as children from families better off financially.
More than a fifth of B.C. children live in poverty and many schools bear the brunt of this when children arrive unfed in the morning or without proper clothing and footwear for the weather.
Families existing on social assistance or minimum wage jobs in Greater Vancouver find it difficult to pay rent and still have sufficient money to cover other expenses and food. One parent with four children told The Vancouver Sun of trying to survive on $1800 a month in disability payments after paying over $1600 a month rent.
A number of schools use emergency funds from AAS to help families with weekend food when there is none at home.
A survey in one Vancouver secondary school found that 25 per cent of students had no food at home at least once a month.
This year $80,000 in emergency funds was granted to schools, while almost $15,000 was provided to help students who need transit, and almost $200,000 went to various other poverty mitigation programs.
Surrey schools received $437,275 and Vancouver schools were given $316,911 this year.
Surrey has the greatest number of school aged children in the province and many poor families seeking lower rent have moved there from Vancouver.
The following is a list of major donors who contributed this year:
PCI Developments, $30,000; Bridges Family Memorial Foundation; $10,000; John Pickford, $5000; Michael Terrell, $5,000; Catherine Howar, $5,000; Nathanson Schachter and Thompson LLP, $17,874; David Sidoo, $10,000; Diane Harwood Memorial Trust, $13,000; Dr. Joyce Chan, $10,000; G 10 Foundation, $6,000; Jack and Doris Brown Foundation, $10,000; Lohn Foundation, $50,000; John Fussell, $3,500; Vaughn Palmer, $3,500; McGrane-Pearson Endowment Fund, $10,000; Mayne Inc., $25,000; Schmelke Family Charitable Foundation,$10,000; Taylor Phillips Charitable Foundation Trust Fund, $60,000; Estate of William Douglas Leith, $38,353; Tracey MacKinlay, $10,000; Vare Grewal and friends $15,000; Ventana Construction Corp. $10,000; WIIFM Management Ltd., $29,000; Zenterra Developments Ltd., $10,000; Syd Belzberg, $25,000; Anoop Khosla and various companies, $10,000; Danielson Group Wealth, $3,000; John Montalbano, $6,500.
A number of other donors wished to remain anonymous.
Some like Don Wolfe of Transtar Sanitation Supply Ltd., ($10,000) made contributions to Langley School District Foundation or to schools directly.