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Singh pushes for national school food program during B.C. food security stop

Singh criticizes Liberals for delays and the Conservatives’ opposition
On Wednesday morning, March 6, Canada’s NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh visited the Comox Valley to advocate for a national school lunch program to be implemented in the upcoming budget. (Olivier Laurin / Comox Valley Record)

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh used a B.C. food security platform to advocate for a national school lunch program in the upcoming budget.

“Parents are doing everything they can to take care of their kids, but the cost of food just keeps going up. In a country as rich as ours, no child should ever have to go to school hungry,” said Singh. “While parents make big sacrifices to keep food on the table, grocery store CEOs like Galen Weston are making record profits at Canadians’ expense.”

He was joined Wednesday morning (March 6) by Vancouver Island NDP MPs Rachel Blaney and Gord Johns at a press conference hosted by Courtenay’s food security non-profit LUSH Valley, aimed at raising awareness about the importance of providing nutritious meals to students.

Singh is prioritizing a national school lunch program as one of his party’s chief objectives.

“We’re making it very clear in this upcoming budget (that) one of our specific demands is that the federal government finally commit to a national school lunch program,” said Singh. “We want to make this happen across the country… in every city, in every community, so that every kid can go to school and know that they’ll have a healthy lunch.”

In turn, such a program could also alleviate a significant source of stress and financial burden for parents across the country, believes the politician.

As the NDP leader stated, school districts across B.C. received provincial funding through the Feeding Futures program, but Singh is pushing the federal government to do its part.

Despite a good working relationship with the minority Liberal government, Singh remained critical of their involvement in solving the issue of food insecurity in schools.

“I want to point out that the Liberals have promised to bring (a national school lunch program) for years and haven’t done so,” said Singh. “They’ve been dragging their feet, stringing people along and that’s wrong.

“We are demanding that the Liberal government bring in funding for a national school lunch program so every kid can get access to a nutritious meal at school.”

Singh also expressed dissatisfaction with the Conservatives’ handling of the situation.

“Recently we had a vote on a national school lunch program and Pierre Poilievre’s (party) voted against it,” said Singh. “How could they look a kid in the eyes, who hasn’t been getting nutritious meals, and say they’re gonna vote against a school lunch program?”

Before Singh’s address, NDP MP for Courtenay-Alberni Gord Johns took the chance to highlight the work of a local non-profit in fighting against food insecurity.

“Organizations like Lush Valley here in the Comox Valley are going above and beyond to ensure that people in our communities have food,” said Johns. “Groups (like LUSH) are leading the way and are filling crucial gaps that are widening as poverty rates rise.”

Yet, Johns recognized that the grunt of the work falls on non-profits across the country.

“It’s crucial to point out that it should not fall to organizations like LUSH Valley to do this work without proper support from all levels of government,” said Johns. “While the B.C. government has been a meaningful partner… the federal government hasn’t been doing its share, (and) families are still waiting for this help. We need the federal government to fill the gap.”

For LUSH Valley’s executive director Maurita Prato, potential help from the federal government could make a night and day difference amid this current crisis.

“Right now, we’re supporting 300 school district families through our (programs, but) there continues to be so much need,” said Prato. “(Organizations like ours are) really pushing wraparound policies (and are asking) for the federal government… to put in significant funds so that we can provide school food programming in a universal way so that every student has access to a meal across the country.”

RELATED: Hunger persists in Comox Valley despite historic school food program funds

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