As the dispute between B.C. teachers and government drags on, the list of vulnerable children who will be hit hardest by a school strike grows.
Many at-risk children rely on hot breakfast and lunch programs in schools for their daily nutrition.
In Vancouver alone, at least 650 kids benefit from the breakfasts.
During the summer, community centres and day camps have been picking up some of the slack.
Strathcona Elementary Vice-Principal Jesse Brown says there are a lot of families dealing with poverty in his neighbourhood.
“Lots of students come to school having not had breakfast, not sure what they’re going to eat for lunch, and that would lead to a lot of anxiety throughout the day and impact their learning,” says Brown.
He says kids get distracted, tired and grumpy with no food to nourish them.
“You can see it because they are just not ready to learn and you know they are dealing with something greater,” says Brown.
Several hundred students use the hot lunch program at Strathcona elementary, one of at least a dozen Vancouver schools offering free or subsidized meals.
Brown says students can get a nutritious lunch, which they can pay for in full or pay as little as they can. He says the majority of their students is signed up for it.
The breakfast program, which serves hot meals on a daily basis, is also used by up to 200 families.
“These kids can come to school knowing they will be fed throughout the day and some of their basic nourishment needs will be met,” he says.
But there are concerns that it won’t continue in September and kids will go hungry.
In the event the strike continues past Sept. 2, Brown says they are still hoping to keep their hot breakfast program running, but he is not sure there are enough resources to keep the lunch program going.
The Vancouver School Board says emergency food supplies will be available at all breakfast program sites.
With files from Tanya Beja