New program takes stigma out of subsidized school lunches for kids

Sep 13 2021, 3:02 pm

Going back to school should not mean going hungry.

That’s the message behind a new program aimed at helping end food insecurity for young people.

“Food insecurity is a huge problem in BC,” says Helena McShane, Communications Manager at SPUD.

More than 1.2 million children across Canada live in food-insecure households. In BC, one in five children lives in poverty. Far too many parents lack the money or the time to prepare healthy lunches every day. Inconsistent access to nutritious, affordable food affects all aspects of a child’s health — physical, mental and social.

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Most Vancouverites know SPUD as an online grocery service that delivers local, sustainable food in reusable bins. SPUD is also helping to fight childhood hunger by teaming up with food service company Simply Foods on the Fuel Up school lunch program.

Fuel Up prepares 700 healthy lunches, fresh each day, and delivers them to elementary and middle school students in select New Westminster, Abbotsford, Burnaby, Vancouver and West Vancouver schools. Since the program’s launch in 2019, it has served more than 60,000 hot lunches and 35,000 subsidized meals.

“They make these well-priced, wonderful meals for kids,” McShane says. “They collaborate with the school boards and the schools themselves.” She adds, “They connect with so many families who are not able to pay for their own lunches.”

Families who do pay full price help to subsidize those who need a little assistance. According to McShane, Fuel Up has worked hard to remove the stigma that often surrounds subsidized meals. “There’s no difference between the lunches,” she says. “They package them so they look exactly the same.” Each day the offerings include gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian options.

For the month of September, SPUD is helping Fuel Up by collecting direct donations to the organization and by donating $1 for each everyday essentials bundle that SPUD sells. The heavily discounted bundles are filled with meal essentials.

Plus, all month long, shoppers can send back their SPUD bins filled with non-perishable food such as pasta, peanut butter and granola bars from their own pantries. “Not everyone has cash to give,” McShane explains. And donating something tangible can be more meaningful and memorable for children: “I think it makes the kids around you really see what giving is about.”

Happy child with glassesIf you’d like to help support vulnerable families and ensure that no child ever goes hungry, or you want learn about enrolling your own school in the program, visit Fuel Up on the web or on Instagram.

Sheri RadfordSheri Radford

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