The Comox Valley Regional District board is pushing senior governments to bring in a national healthy school food program.
The issue, in response to a letter sent on behalf of the Coalition for Healthy School Food, has been making the rounds in front of local councils and surfaced on the agenda of the CVRD at a meeting earlier in August.
It had also gone before the board of education earlier in the year.
At the CVRD meeting, Area B director Arzeena Hamir brought up the idea about the need to improve food security, something she feels has become more evident since the pandemic began.
“It might seem above and beyond our area of jurisdiction,” she said.
Hamir explained many families are struggling to access healthy food, and COVID-19 only added to the problem, as more localized school programs that were happening were not available during shutdowns.
“We know that there are definite holes in our food system here,” she said.
She also wants the CVRD to look at poverty alleviation, in part through healthy food, and have staff look at how to support the school district in making sure the current programs continue, perhaps through facilitating funding to regional districts that could help.
“There’s a number of resources that we as a regional district have that our school district does not,” she said.
Wendy Morin, a Courtenay council director on the CVRD, agreed, stressing the need to commit to Reconciliation issues and that there are First Nations components to the food programs already in schools.
CVRD board members reiterated a point made at other local government meetings — that Canada needs a Canada-wide food program for students.
“I think it’s quite shocking that we don’t have a universal school food program,” Morin said.
Some board members did have concerns about the reference to cost-sharing in the proposed letter, specifically whether the costs would come from local governments.
Hamir pointed out the CVRD could offer other resources such as garden space at the exhibition site rather than funding. Currently, it is subcontracting space to the school district for growing food.
“I’m looking for creative solutions like that,” she said. “I think we do have other resources that we could put on the table.”
Chief administrative officer Russell Dyson clarified the proposed letter to senior governments refers to federal-provincial cost-sharing for a program, adding the board resolution could specifically state this.
In the end, the board unanimously approved motions to endorse the Coalition for Healthy School Food proposal for a universal, federally and provincially cost-shared, healthy school food program; write to the prime minister and premier to support bringing in a program; have staff review resources to investigate the connection between income and food security as well as possible options for action; and copy all federal party leaders on the letters to the prime minister and premier.