Mount Pleasant Elementary: Families need food
$690 raised
8% of $9k goal
8 contributors
69 Weeks running

Until recently, Mount Pleasant Elementary school was designated inner-city and was eligible for special funding from the Vancouver School Board to help its poorest of families.

But that's finished, thanks to Vancouver’s frenetic real estate market.

Homes in the area are now priced in the millions, rents have soared and many of the poor living near the school have been displaced.

So the school district has decided that Mount Pleasant can take care of itself.

Problem is, not all the poor have left. About 30 of the school’s 224 students come from families living below the poverty line.

Mount Pleasant Elementary used to have a free breakfast and lunch program — now reduced to just 13 bag lunches for the neediest of children. Other services designed to assist struggling families have also been axed.

"We still have quite a population of families that are needy and still need support," says principal Jann Schmidt.

But now that Mount Pleasant has lost  its inner-city status, the support has mostly vanished.

That’s why Schmidt is asking The Vancouver Sun's Adopt-A-School fund for $12,500 to help the school's neediest families buy food to get them through the weekends.

“Children and parents," Schmidt says.

The families are generally supported by single mothers. About half of the mothers are on social assistance. The others have minimum-wage jobs.

Those who have the stamina work at one job in the morning and another at night. That gives them little time with their children.

At the minimum wage ($10.85 an hour), most of a single mother's income goes to rent. Rents have gone up and those not driven out are staying because their social supports are here.

But increasing rents mean there’s less money for food, and Schmidt wants to be able to give the poorest families a $25 food voucher each Friday.

"It's not enough to feed a family all weekend, but it is a great help to these mothers, as with it they can buy fresh fruit and vegetables and stretch their food budget. It will at least ensure there is something there for the children," Schmidt says.

"And being able to buy their own food also gives the family its dignity."


The Vancouver Sun’s seventh annual Adopt-A-School campaign is under way, and we are again asking readers to consider the plight of children who come to school unfed, improperly dressed and suffering the psychological effects of living in poverty.

We are not talking about a few children.  We are talking about thousands.

They are found in every school district in this province, no exceptions.

Last year the Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund, which administers Adopt-A-School (AAS), distributed $604,000 in emergency funds to 86 schools across the province to help alleviate the most two most common forms of suffering — hunger and lack of proper clothing.

And while much of the money was spent in this way, there were also grants to help teachers heal some of the psychological damage to children whose lives are so blighted by poverty that they are arriving in school at their wit’s end.

Money was spent on supplying and equipping sensory rooms where children can decompress and be soothed into a state where they can function and learn and on other therapeutic programs that teachers tell us they need.

“Since AAS began in 2011 we have sent almost $4 million to teachers and principals struggling to deal with the effects of poverty, in almost all cases, without resources,” said Harold Munro, editor of the Vancouver Sun and The Province and chair of The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund board.

When a parent shows up at a school in tears with no food in the home and no money to buy any what are they supposed to do?

It happens regularly in schools all across the province.

“For teachers and principals it must be heartbreaking and this newspaper does not think it right that this burden should be borne by them alone,” Munro said.

“We are all in this together, these are our children and it is immoral to ignore the wants of the poor.”

AAS has:

* Provided money for emergency food vouchers.

*  Supported programs that distribute food in order to get impoverished families through the weekend.

* Bought beds to get children off the floor, or to replace those infested with bedbugs.

* Bought lice kits.

* Provided money to a special unit that deals with the most vulnerable students in danger of being sexually exploited or tempted to join gangs for no other reason than not having enough money to buy a meal or a decent winter coat.

It has got to the point that we are seeing not only concern from adults but from students.

The last campaign showed that children in the Gulf Islands were bringing extra food to feed hungry friends who had none. In Langley three teenagers set up their own program to feed needy families over weekends.

This campaign tell the story of how high school students in a Vancouver school have been moved to organize their own breakfast program after discovering  that a quarter of the school’s students were without food at home at least once during a month.

So the problem is obvious to school districts, principal, teachers and now other students.

The Vancouver Sun has never said a critical word about any political party in relation to the AAS campaign, except to ask the government of the day to do something.

We are repeating that request to this new government.

In the meantime we are again asking our readers to support our campaign. Your generosity has carried us this far.

You have fed thousands of children, helped hundreds of families.

“We can’t do it without you,” Munro said.


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