The impact of rising costs has also been felt by families of school-age children. In order to help relieve some pressure, Central Okanagan School District 23 is waiving some fees for certain families.
At the beginning of the school year, the Ministry of Education and Childcare announced the Student and Family affordability fund, which provides school districts money for families struggling with rising costs.
“Our share of that is just under $2.4 million and we’ve been working out a plan to distribute those funds to families who are needing some help financially across the district,” said Kevin Kaardal, Central Okanagan Public Schools superintendent.
Central Okanagan Public Schools is using a portion of that fund for a policy that waives additional fees or costs for parents who meet certain financial criteria.
“We’ve looked at the vulnerability of schools in our community and we’ve been able to waive a number of fees in a number of schools,” Kardaal said.
Since 2017, the school district has worked in collaboration with Food for Thought to provide meals to families and this year the non-profit has seen a jump in students.
“We’ve seen a 25-per cent increase in the need for students to get backpacks, as well as our breakfast program has increased as well. Right now we’re sitting at about 800 kids per week combined with both programs,” said Chloe Kam, Food for Thought program manager.
Food for thought has seen a steady increase in recent months due to rising costs.
“Inflation plays a huge role in it. When families are debating whether to buy produce or pay their rent you have to pick the most basic living things first,” said Kam.
“Sometimes they are not able to provide that higher quality food, so that’s where we step in and try to make sure no kids are going hungry in the Central Okanagan,”
Kam says certain residents may not be aware that the Central Okanagan currently has a 16-per cent poverty rate.
“I think it’s just really impactful to hear what percent of students, so one in six, are experiencing poverty and food insecurity in the Central Okanagan alone,” said Kam.
The school district says parents are still able to apply for their fees and additional costs to be waived upon qualification.