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IN OUR VIEW: First step for kids lunches

But we need a lot more steps to get the job done
Starfish Backpack program offers Langley students food to take home to their families. (Langley Advance Times files)

One response to the federal government’s announcement of a $1 billion, five-year program to feed kids in Canadian schools is that it’s a good first step.

The problem of kids coming to school hungry exists across the country and in almost every community, to one degree or another. A new, broad-based effort to ensure that no child goes hungry is necessary.

Unlike in the United States, where school lunches are a long-established government program, Canada has had a scattershot approach to feeding children in schools. In many districts, including here in Metro Vancouver, programs have come from the grassroots, with local volunteers, service clubs, and individual districts running projects such as hot lunches and Starfish backpack programs.

A first step towards a more comprehensive program would be welcome.

As long as the other steps happen, as well.

The new project aims at feeding approximately 400,000 students.

However, according to Statistics Canada, there were about 5.7 million elementary and high school-aged children in the country.

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A University of Toronto study in 2021 found that 5.8 million Canadians lived in a “food insecure” household, and 1.4 million of those people were children.

The new federal program will reach less than a third of the children it’s designed to help when it begins. It will supplement existing school lunch programs, and it can help fill the gaps where local efforts are not in place – but it won’t meet the total need across the country.

We have a tendency in Canada to announce programs that sound great on paper. National pharmacare, planting two billion trees, expanding transit networks.

And then things go somewhat awry. It’s not that the programs fall apart entirely. It’s just that they don’t quite live up to the implicit promises being made. When do we find the money to feed the next million students?

The biggest gap in Canada is between our good intentions and our execution. All the intentions and announcements in the world can’t put food on one plate, nor plant one tree, nor build one unit of affordable housing, nor pave one pothole.

We’re looking forward to this school lunch program. But first steps have to be followed by many more to complete a journey.

– M.C.