Workers with the School Lunch program serve children at one of the 30 schools that participate in the initiative on the Northeast Avalon on a daily basis.
Feeding children is always a challenging proposition.
Potentially feeding approximately 12,000 of them on a daily basis is all the more daunting, especially in the face of tougher economic times in Newfoundland and Labrador.
It is estimated that 5,400 meals will be served daily in primary and elementary schools in 2017-18, and doing it with a budget and health-conscious guideline is what the School Lunch program faces daily.
“Our goal is to get meals to students and make sure they are available to everyone,” Ken Hoskins, executive director of the School Lunch program, said Tuesday.
Lunches are available to pupils regardless of the financial situation of the family, Hoskins said.
“There is no money handled on site, so nobody knows who pays what. People pay what they can to be part of the program,” he said. “At a cost of $3.75 a day, there is fair value for the meals students are receiving. There are not many people who pay nothing. Some pay less, but they pay what they can.”
Hoskins said that, as a parent, he sees value in the School Lunch program, as it costs just $3.75 (suggested price) a day to feed his child, or about $90 a month.
This is up 25 cents per day from last year, the first raise in cost in three years.
He says knowing the program is there takes a lot of stress off his family and the countless others who participate in it, because they know each of the children will be fed on a daily basis.
Views have changed
The goal is to operate a non-stigmatizing program that provides a hot, nutritious lunch for primary and elementary schoolchildren, regardless of the families’ financial situation.
“This has come a long way from the way the program used to be perceived,” Hoskins said.
“It was called the ‘poor lunch’ program when it was started. People actually said, ‘This is a good program, but we don’t need you at our school,’” he added.
The program continues to value its original mission statement and strive to operate a non-stigmatizing program.
“We have placed an emphasis on health in our program. There are two chefs on board that have helped to change the thinking that this is not just putting food on a plate, but actual healthy food.”
The program expects to produce 120,000 additional meals in 2017-18 from the 800,000 served last year.
To operate the program, School Lunch budgeted for $2.6 million this year, with only four per cent ($100,000) of this coming from the government.
“People are not spending. They don’t have it to spend,” Hoskins said.
“The economy is dictating that, so when we budget our program, we have to be cautious.”
Hoskins said there were just over 300,000 meals served in 2013, and since then the program has tripled in need and costs associated with it. He said the organization operates without loans and carries no debt, relying on major patrons, some funding from the government and the pay-what-you-can policy that sees funds go right back into operational costs.
School Lunch tidbits
- Operates in 30 schools in the Eastern Avalon.
- Serves more than 5,400 meals daily, totaling approximately 920,000 in 2017-18.
- The Committee for Hungry Children was formed in 1988
- On Nov. 6, 1989, 147 meals were served at Bishop Feild Elementary School, which marked the beginning of the School Lunch Association.
- Program will cost more than $400,000 this year.
- Cost is $3.75 per day, per meal (or an amount the contributing family can contribute).
- Approximately 60 people are employed with the School Lunch program.
The following schools located on the Northeast Avalon participate in the School Lunch program:
Bishop Abraham Elementary, St. John’s
Bishop Feild Elementary, St. John’s
Cape St. Francis Elementary, Pouch Cove
C.B.S. Elementary, C.B.S.
Cowan Heights Elementary, St. John’s
Goulds Elementary, Goulds
Ecole des Grands-Vents, St. John’s
Hazelwood Elementary, St. John’s
Holy Cross, Holyrood
Holy Family, Paradise
Holy Trinity Elementary, Torbay
Juniper Ridge Intermediate, Torbay
Larkhall Academy, St. John’s
Macdonald Drive Elementary, St. John’s
Mary Queen of the World, Mount Pearl
Newtown Elementary, Mount Pearl
Octagon Pond Elementary, St. John’s
Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s Intermediate, PCSP
Rennies River Elementary, St. John’s
Roncalli Elementary, St. John’s
St. Andrew’s Elementary, St. John’s
St. Bernard’s Primary, Witless Bay
St. Edward’s School, Kelligrews
St. George’s Elementary, C.B.S.
St. John Bosco, St. John’s
St. Matthew’s Elementary, St. John’s
St. Peter’s Primary, Mount Pearl
St. Teresa’s, St. John’s
Upper Gullies Elementary, C.B.S.
Virginia Park Elementary, St. John’s