Food insecurity by province or territory, using data from Statistics Canada’s Canadian Community Health Survey, 2017-18. (image from proof.utoronto.ca/food-insecurity)
Jewish Family Services Vancouver (JFS), Richmond Jewish Day School (RJDS) and Kehila Society of Richmond are piloting a new food program to enhance students’ access to healthy and nutritious food in a way that promotes privacy, availability and inclusiveness.
When RJDS needed support with their school lunch program after a contract with a former caterer ended, Kehila Society saw an opportunity to work with JFS and create a food program that benefits all families throughout the week, regardless of income.
With start-up funds provided by Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, once a week, JFS delivers hot meals to RJDS at no cost to the students or their families. These meals are healthy, plant-based, and available to all students. In addition, a community fridge and pantry program is in operation throughout the week. The start-up funds provided to the Kehila Society enabled the purchase of a fridge and pantry cupboard, which JFS, the Kehila Society and Richmond Food Bank keep stocked. Students and their families can access healthy snacks, dry goods, fresh produce and meals during school hours.
“The students at Richmond Jewish Day School have absolutely loved the weekly hot lunches sponsored through JFS and the Kehila Society,” said Sabrina Bhojani, principal of RJDS. “Our parents have also expressed their delight with this program, knowing that their children are receiving a warm, healthy and nutritious meal at school. The research is clear – good nutrition helps our children to focus, concentrate and self-regulate, which, in turn, results in improved learning and student performance.”
Proper nutrition plays a central part in learning, yet one in eight households in Canada struggle to access nutritious food, according to PROOF, a research program investigating household food insecurity – defined as “the inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints” – across the country (proof.utoronto.ca). That amounts to “4.4 million people, including more than 1.2 million children living in food-insecure households.”
Healthy, universal school meal programs play an important role in giving children and families access to nutritious and safe food in a non-stigmatizing manner when they need the support.
“School meal programs can play a crucial role in ensuring that all children … can eat healthy and nutritious foods – which, in turn, supports their ability to learn,” said Lynne Fader, co-director of the Kehila Society. “School meal programs are uniquely placed to address under-nutrition, by promoting healthy diets. Serving a free school meal increases children’s intake of healthy foods, especially among children with lower socioeconomic status.”
“All students deserve access to healthy, safe, nutritious and easily accessible food,” said Ilana Labow, director of food security, JFS Vancouver. “We are inspired by this vision and are committed to helping uplift students’ lives through delicious, good food. We look forward to nourishing this program together and watching it thrive and grow.”
– Courtesy JFS Vancouver