Ecole North Oyster: Feeding Children in Need
$4,150 raised
36% of $11.5k goal
3 contributors
12 Days running
There are students at Ladysmith's Ecole North Oyster elementary who arrive at school hungry and have no lunch to eat. The school is struggling to feed them.

It's easily the worst moment of the day when a hungry child comes to her for food and there is nothing to give.

"It's horrible," says Christine De Vries, the secretary of Ecole North Oyster Elementary, a rural French-English school near Ladysmith.

"Yesterday I told a child she was getting the last apple. I had nothing for the other kids who were hungry. I just don't ever want to be in this state."

So De Vries has applied to The Vancouver Sun's Adopt-A-School campaign for help.

North Oyster doesn't appear to fit the profile of a school that needs it.

"This is not a school that is seen as having a need," she says. "We are kind of unique. We are in the country just outside of Ladysmith and are the only French-English elementary school in the district."

Most of its 331 students show up having had breakfast and with adequate food for a snack and lunch.

But there are others who come to school hungry or without enough food to get them through the day.

"We do have some families who are struggling," she says. "Some of the children eat all the food they have at snack and have nothing left for lunch."

Four years ago the school began soliciting donations of food from a Save-On-Foods store and more recently food from a local food bank, usually bread.

But some weeks it's not enough and De Vries said they never know what is being sent until it arrives.

"Today, for instance, we ran out of food and an EA went out and bought some ham and bread for sandwiches."

There is nothing in the school's budget for emergency food, so the school raised about $1,000 last Christmas from the proceeds of sales of Purdy's Chocolates.

"We gave out Purdy Christmas catalogues to the staff and families for them to order items and we got a percentage of sales," she says.

But that won't get them through the year as they are feeding an average of 12 children breakfast every day and about 16 children lunches and snacks.

"It's a struggle towards the end of the year," De Vries says.

Breakfast is mostly oatmeal made by the school's two education assistants, Krista Benjamin and Stephanie Pelletier, who then deliver it to classrooms on a trolley. Sometimes they also have yogurt and fruit, but De Vries said she would like to supplement this with protein such as hard-boiled eggs.

There is a kitchen in the school, but no paid cook so the meals consist of oatmeal for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch.

"If we had the money I could get eggs and prepare them at home over the weekend and bring them in on Mondays," she says.

Not only is the school short of food, there is little or no equipment available to the EAs. When they run out of plastic spoons or don't have enough sandwich bags, the money has to come out of the dwindling sum raised from selling chocolates.

Not only does the school need money for food and kitchen supplies, De Vries said some children are not adequately dressed and need coats, hats, boots and gloves to get them through the winter.

The school has asked AAS for $10,000 for food for two years, plus $500 for kitchen supplies and $1,000 to provide winter clothing.

"If we could get some help it would make a huge difference. It would be absolutely awesome."

The Vancouver Sun Children's Fund wrote:

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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