The use of funds includes feeding breakfast to hungry students across the province.


Gerry Bellett, (THE VANCOUVER SUN) — Gordon Fisher, president of the Pacific Newspaper Group, thanked Vancouver Sun readers for their generosity in supporting this year’s Adopt-A-School campaign which raised more than half a million dollars.

“Their support has been spectacular,” said Fisher. “Donations arrived from all quarters — from small cheques sent in by seniors to larger donations from corporations and service agencies.

“For example, we received $7,500 from Big Sisters, $30,000 from Telus, $20,000 from Fortis, $21,000 from the Rotary Club of Vancouver, and a commitment from the staff of Beedie Development Group for $120,000 to provide food and other programs to a needy Burnaby school for a number of years.

“There was $5,000 from the estate of a woman who wished to leave a legacy for an elementary school,” said Fisher.

This year, grants totalling $566,824 were distributed to 60 schools throughout the province that applied for help.

“There’s an old truism about newspapers and the people who read them. Newspaper readers are generally people who care for, and are active in, building better communities. They are people who read to be informed, and seeing need they often take action.

“Reacting to the strong words of our reporters on the needs of children in our own backyard, readers donated more than $550,000 to the recent fundraising campaign. It’s a wonderful testimony to the continuing generosity and continuing community commitment of Vancouver Sun readers. I am very proud of our readers and our caring team of reporters and editors who pour their hearts into this cause.”

Most of the money is being directed to schools struggling to feed hungry children by supporting emergency breakfast programs or helping provide lunch.

Funds were also allocated to help principals deal with requests from desperate parents living in poverty who find themselves without sufficient food for their children or in need of medicines due to some emergency.

Schools received help to provide winter clothes and footwear, or provide counselling to elementary school students traumatized by the effects of poverty.

Money was made available for lice kits, bed bug covers for beds, after-school programs to keep children safe, or to help young mothers attending school with the cost of diapers or baby food.

Some received funds for technology for special needs children, others to run programs in schools that have large numbers of immigrant children not ready to enter school without help.

This year, the Adopt-A-School program received many requests for money to provide bus tickets to needy students so they could attend school. Surrey school district alone said it needed $95,000.

School after school told stories of students missing class because their parents didn’t have bus fare. In one Surrey school, a Grade 12 student said the week before he only had enough money to come to school once and had to decide which day it would be.

The economics of this need examining.

The province puts aside $6,900 a year to educate that student. Based on a school year of 160 days this works out to $43.13 a day.

Two bus tickets for that student costs $3.50.

So for a lack of $14 in bus fare, the province wasted $173 for the four days that student was absent.

It makes no economic sense, so is it any wonder teachers believe some provision has to be made for children living in poverty to get help with transit costs?

As a result of approaches by Adopt-A-School, TransLink has initiated a $50,000 pilot program this year so selected schools in Vancouver, Surrey and Coquitlam can distribute transit tickets to needy students.

Since 2011, the Adopt-A-School campaign has attempted to raise awareness of the issues teachers and principals face dealing with the effects poverty has on students.

At present, all breakfast programs operating in Vancouver’s inner city schools are paid for by private donors or Adopt-A-School.

But despite all that is being done, there are an estimated 2,000 students in Vancouver schools who are hungry and in need of food each day. The school district estimates it would cost more than $1.5 million a year to feed them — money it doesn’t have.

Mayor Gregor Robertson recently announced the City of Vancouver would give $400,000 a year to the Vancouver School Board to operate breakfast programs in designated schools. This is intended to supplement the ongoing efforts by private donors and Adopt-A-School to feed children.

“I would like to commend the city for doing this. These children need feeding, and for the city to recognize this gives us great hope that these problems can finally be tackled,” said Fisher.

“These children need feeding, and for the city to recognize this gives us great hope that these problems can finally be tackled.”