Feeding Futures Helps Students Succeed

At the Public Board Meeting on May 14, Patrick Klassen, Director of Learning Services, gave a presentation on food security in the district and explained how the new Feeding Futures funding from the provincial government is being used to support students in Delta.

For the 2023/2024 school year, the district received $1,765,282 in funding, which is based on student enrolment numbers. 40% of this funding has been distributed to schools for them to support families in need directly. In addition, the district has awarded funds to local community organizations who already have food security programs in place that support Delta students, including the South Delta Baptist Church Starfish Backpack Program, the North Delta Rotary Club, the Delta Firefighters’ Healthy Snack Program and the YoBro/YoGirl program.

“During this first year of funding, we’ve been exploring what’s out there and assessing the need,” said Mr. Klassen. “We have been narrowing down what we need to purchase and put in place, such as retrofitting kitchens and ensuring people have FoodSafe certificates, and identifying how we can create stigma free access to food for students. We have also been working with Fraser Health and other school districts to see what they are doing. To help support the local economy, we are aiming to ensure that at least 30% of the food is from B.C.”

Mr. Klassen highlighted the food programs underway at three schools currently:

Students at Heath Elementary are given the opportunity to enjoy breakfast before school with whole grain cereal, toast, pancakes, fresh fruit, yogurt and milk on offer. Many thanks to the breakfast team at Heath which consists of a school EA, volunteer parents and grade 7 students for making this happen. The breakfast has been served since December and feeds between 25 to 50 students daily.

At McCloskey Elementary, the school offers family-style seating and a cozy environment for students enjoying the food program. They use the program to build connection with students through daily check-ins, promote a healthy lifestyle through educational activities and build life skills through various tasks.

At Sands Secondary, Child and Youth Care Workers Kristie Watters and Subreena Sidhu, along with Carol Kirby, Education Assistant, developed a Breakfast Program for any student who missed breakfast at home. They acquired furniture and breakfast equipment to bring this idea to life and involved the school’s Life Skills students in assembling the furniture and preparing the breakfast buffet. Since the start of March, breakfast is provided daily in the school’s foyer.

“As well as providing nutritious food for students, we’re also using this opportunity to teach students about the importance of healthy eating,” said Kirsten Hermanson, District Manager – Prevention and School Wellness, who is responsible for managing the district’s Feeding Futures Grant. “This funding is invaluable to many students particularly considering the current economic environment with escalating food costs making it a challenge for everyone to put healthy and nutritious food on the table. Although students at schools in Delta have always had access to snacks if they were feeling hungry at school, this new funding has enabled schools to expand their food programs significantly to include more substantial food offerings.”

This week, the school district also hosted a community dinner for newcomers and refugees in North Delta with more than 250 attendees. “One of the aims of the community dinner was to build relationships and trust so that students who are new to the community feel comfortable accepting food at their school. One important learning for us from this event was to find out what types of food they would like to see offered at school,” said Ms. Hermanson.

“Ultimately, food is a basic need for every child to ensure they can focus fully on their learning. Our aim is to create sustainable, universally accessible and stigma free food programs that ensure no child goes hungry in our district,” concluded Mr. Klassen.

In April 2023, the provincial government announced the new Feeding Futures funding, which invests in building and expanding local school food programs to ensure all students have access to healthy food and snacks at school. The funding can be used for purchasing food and hiring dedicated staff to co-ordinate the provision of food to students.