Parent committee wants lunch program to remain status quo

Dwindling funds threatens North Oyster Elementary School's meal program.

Food is a fundamental building block for student learning.

To ensure student success, North Oyster Elementary School created a meal program more than 27 years ago.

Currently about 70 of the more than 90 children at the school use the program.

But declining funding means the program will change next year and food will be provided to students identified as having the most need.

“There are many kids that literally this is the one meal they get – it’s the only healthy meal they eat in a 24-hour period,” said Stacey MacAdam, a mother of children who attend the school, and member of the North Oyster parent advisory council. “It is needed.”

The school runs the lunch program through money received from Community Link grants and a small fee for lunches.

Community Link is a Ministry of Education grant program that gives money to schools to provide services such as breakfast and lunch programs, inner city and community school programs, school-based support workers and counselling for at-risk children and youth.

Over the past few years North Oyster’s Link money has declined from $90,000 in 2008-09 to $51,000 for 2012-13.

The Link money is earmarked for academic support next year and will go toward additional teacher and education assistant time to allow the school to work with small groups of students in math and language arts. A portion will also be used to purchase equipment for the band and music program.

Donna Reimer, Nanaimo school district spokeswoman, said because of the decline in grant money the lunch program will be offered in a new format next year.

The school is working with Nanaimo Foodshare to provide about 15 students – identified as in the most need through a survey that was sent home – with food next year.

“No child will be hungry and the skill will be able to enhance the academic needs of the students,” said Reimer in an e-mail.

The North Oyster PAC wants the lunch program to remain unchanged and is starting a fundraising campaign to top up the grant money. The committee needs to raise about $25,000 and is asking the public for donations.

MacAdam said not every family is comfortable identifying themselves as in need on a survey sent from the school, and some students who do need the service may go hungry if it isn’t applied to the whole school

The lunches were prepared by a cook at the school who is being laid off from her position as the school meals program assistant; however, Reimer said the assistant has ample seniority for a job somewhere else in the district next year.

The assistant is the mother-in law of MacAdam; but, MacAdam said it has no bearing on why she is fighting for the program. She said as long as the program continues for the kids she doesn’t care who is hired to prepare the meals.

The PAC is asking people make any donations out to North Oyster Elementary School with a note that the money is to support the school lunch program. For more information on the fundraising campaign please contact MacAdam at 250-667-2561.

Reimer said any money received will be used to support the Nanaimo Foodshare program at the school.

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