"There are some students who come to school so hungry and undernourished they are unable to learn in the classroom," said Jennifer Cook, Supervisor of Food Services for the VSB.
Traditionally, the VSB offered provincially-funded hot lunch programs to schools with high numbers of vulnerable learners. However, as neighbourhood demographics change, schools that were once designated as "inner city" may no longer have as many students in need.
The VSB reassesses the distribution of inner-city funding every five years. In September 2014, 17 elementary schools begun a transition from a universal lunch program to a full-pay program. Families are expected to pay the full cost of the program (about $75-80 per month), with the VSB continuing to subsidize vulnerable children only.
Cook says this frees up resources to feed hungry students in other schools.
"We are aware now that we have vulnerable learners not just in select schools, but all across the city," said Cook. "Our responsibility is to help these particular students wherever they might attend school."
"Lunch-to-Go" aims to help all kids in need
The pilot program "Lunch-to-Go" delivers food to vulnerable kids at schools without hot lunch programs. Food Services works with school staff to determine how to distribute the food in a way that works for best the students.
For students at Sir Sanford Fleming Elementary, that means full lunches for some students, and a supply of fruit and other healthy items to supplement lunches that fall short.
"If we didn't have this, some of our students would be hungry," said Principal Liz Kloeppel. "I'm hoping we can keep it for next year."