Photo by Chung Chow
In a perfect world, no child would ever go to school hungry. Or lack access to nutritious food.
But recognizing reality, the Richmond School District’s Feed-U-Cate Trust Fund helps address the problem at a local level.
The idea and development of the fund started as a result of many schools going to WE Day (a global movement that brings together and gives students tools to change the world), recalls retired district administrator Glenn Kishi, who spearheaded the launch of the district initiative in late 2012.
“As part of the agreement to attend WE Day for free, all schools had to commit to a local project and an international project,” Kishi explains. “I realized that there were schools in the district that were seeking financial assistance to help with their breakfast programs.”
After further research, Kishi learned 16 schools ran some type of program for students, some one day a week and others more frequently. He also discovered the costs, generated through their own fundraising efforts, added up over the district to between $15,000 and $20,000 ever year.
Kishi believed the individual schools should not have been saddled with such a burden. He thought the funds could be raised within the greater Richmond community.
Meanwhile, Kishi was overwhelmed by the positive response from students, teachers and other administrators to form a committee.
After several meetings, the members decided it was a project worth pursuing and came up with a name—Feed-U-Cate 38: Nutrition for Learning as well as a logo. They then invited individual schools to engage in the project, and presented the idea to the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, rotary clubs and private businesses.
Word spread quickly, and soon more volunteers and financial support began to emerge. Schools wishing to establish breakfast, lunch or snack programs or obtain funding through the district fund were, and are, encouraged to submit a request to the Poverty Task Force which oversees the Feed-U-Cate program.
“One of the most satisfying elements of the program is that all the funds donated go directly toward purchasing food for the students,” says Kishi, who says the goal is to make the program sustainable for years to come.
Last year, he says, more than $22,000 was distributed to school programs.
Marie Ratcliffe, district administrator of learning services for the Richmond School District, currently oversees the Feed-U-Cate program. She credits Kishi for providing “a brilliant foundation and some really good guiding principles and processes” as being paramount in the program’s success.
“I feel such a sense of relief the schools themselves are not having to fundraise,” Ratcliffe says. “They’re busy people and that was Glenn’s thinking also. Our main mandate is to provide educational programs for students, but we all know there are things happening in students’ and family’s lives that are challenges. We know if we can mitigate some circumstances, students learn better.”
Ratcliffe says every year the Feed-U-Cate program faces increased demand. But she says thanks to the gracious support of the community, schools are determined to step up.
Recognizing the sensitivities associated with such a program, Ratcliffe says the school district is careful in how the needs are delivered. They are designed to be inconspicuous.
Wendy Lim, assistant superintendent for the Richmond School District, says Feed-U-Cate is an example of all of the community working together.
“It takes a village to raise our children,” she says, adding that one of the aims of educators is to teach students the importance of empathy and to take on many different opportunities and challenges.
“We want kids to see each other as being skills full,” she says. “And everyone has gifts to give.”
Since the launch of Feed-U-Cate five years ago, awareness within the schools has also grown. Lim is heartened to see that aside from receiving financial support from the Richmond community, Feed-U-Cate is also funded by student initiatives which continue to increase in number.
Reflecting on his teaching career, Kishi says he saw one of his roles as an educator to create opportunities for students to make themselves, their school, and their community better. He says when that happens, the affects can spread across the country and the world as well.
“When you do something positive the benefits inevitably come back to you in some way,” he concludes.
To support or for more information on Feed-U-Cate, contact the school district at 604-668-6000 or www.sd38.bc.ca.