Nicola-Similkameen schools have received a Feeding Futures grant of $350,000 from the Ministry of Education and Child Care for the current school year.

The Feeding Futures is a provincial-funded program that was created to address food insecurity among youth across the province. The funding of the program allows children and youth to have access to healthy meals and snacks at schools.

Jane Kempston, assistant superintendent at School District 58, expressed deep gratitude for the grant in an interview with the Herald.

“It’s a game changer,” she said. “I mean, (we’re) so grateful for the support and also really grateful that the province has given school districts the ability to decide what they need, like recognizing that it’s not a ‘one size fits all’.”

During the board of education meeting held on Sept. 13, Kempston said that while analyzing data from previous years, she noticed that 14 per cent of vulnerable children from the district are located in Princeton, while 86 per cent are in Merritt.

In the meeting, Kempston went over the possibilities of how the grant could be allotted. The first option would be dispersing the funds through an equality lens, which means the money would be distributed per student.

“If we were to do per head across the district, it would be about $140 per student,” she said.

As for the second option, the money would be distributed following an index that the school district uses to identify what they consider priority families. In this scenario, about $467 would be distributed per priority student in Princeton and $422 per priority student in Merritt.

Trustee Leah Ward raised her concerns about the percentage provided by the per priority index, as she worries that within the district there might be hidden stories about families that are going through a tough situation.

“I know in our community (some) families who aren’t on income assistance for certain times of the year who wouldn’t qualify for this designation,” she said. “When a new family moves into town, we don’t know when that happens either and they could move into poverty.”

Kempston reassured the trustees that the funding should be distributed without stigmas, but relying on flexibility.“We don’t tell families this is the only way you can ask for help. We must be flexible. And that we need to respect the privacy and dignity of families above all else,” she said.

The school district decided that some of the fund will be divided up equally among the school, based on a per student headcount, while another part of the fund will be divided accordingly with the index that prioritizes families who may need more support than others.

In an interview with the Herald, Kempston reminded that those families that are in need of their support are always welcomed to reach out.

“We just want families to know that if you’re needing food support, we’re here to help with that. No children should be hungry at school.”