Neither People for a Healthy Community (PHC) nor the Gabriola Commons have the facilities to run a school lunch program that has been terminated by School District 68 (SD68), according to PHC Executive Director Kathryn Molloy.
At a Monday meeting at PHC to discuss what to do about a school district decision to cancel Gabriola Elementary Schools’ (GES) 16 year old school lunch program, attendees discussed a recommendation by SD68 Superintendent Dave Hutchinson that a non-profit operate the program at “arm’s-length” from the school, and without the use of district funds.
According to outgoing Parents Advisory Council (PAC) President Heather Anfossie, the majority of the funds for the program are already raised from within the community. However meeting attendees wondered where the lunches could be served, if not at the school.
When and where …?
Meeting attendee Pam Hodgkins asked about running the lunch program out of the soon-to-be Commons community kitchen. Molloy said the new kitchen wouldn’t have a dining hall, “and then there is still the liability issue of getting kids across the street”. She added that there is not enough room for the program at PHC either.
As Anfossie thought fees paid by parents cover most of the cost of the actual meals, meeting attendees also considered reducing the cost of the program by having volunteers run the program. However, attendees acknowledged it was “a huge job” for a volunteer. Asserting that the program needs to be run out of the school, Molloy said if the school lunch program is to succeed, GES teachers and the principal will need to get behind the program. In response to a comment that school lunch program Coordinator Carmen Mattes has had to go to bat with past principals to keep the program running, Molloy said if staff issues are part of the barriers to reinstating the program those could be “separated and worked on”.
Meeting attendee Marianne Mattes said currently two days a week Mattes serves hot lunches, and three days a week students get bag lunches. She said the kids used to pick up their lunches from the kitchen, but there was a complaint that this was disruptive, so now, although it is very difficult to manage, the food is delivered to the classrooms.
Meeting attendee Carly McMahon said by the time kids get their lunches, their lunch period is 12 minutes. Anfossie said “it’s not actually a lunch break, it’s instructional time”, because kids have to be supervised while they are eating. McMahon said lunch takes place immediately after a 45 minute recess.
… And how?
Asked whether kids could have their meals during recess, Teacher Kate Reynolds explained that there are only two supervisors on duty during recess, and it was “a logistical nightmare” to supervise kids at recess when some were in the lunch program and some were not.
Asked about having students supervised in the lunch room, Reynolds said the school’s multipurpose room is too small to hold all the kids at once. Attendees were unclear whether volunteers could supervise meals in the multipurpose room, or whether it would be “a union issue”.
As previously reported, in June outgoing GES Principal Tricia McKay suggested the program should be scrapped, citing concerns about its economic sustainability and that many donors to the program don’t realise the program is meant to provide lunches to any GES student who signs onto the program not just to those with poverty issues.
Although PAC members agreed to ensure the program was understood by donors, the school district cancelled the program at the end of the school year.
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