The Student Nutrition Program Sudbury-Manitoulin is struggling to make ends meet, and might have to scale down its programming next school year, unless more funding comes in.
One-time funding from the province of $30,000 filled the gap last school year, and a $127,000 injection from the province (from a total pool of $5 million) is filling the gap this school year.
Next school year will be a challenge unless funding boosts persist.
Student Nutrition Sudbury-Manitoulin manager Angele Young, of Sudbury Better Beginnings Better Futures, walked provincial MPPs through their $500,000 request during a Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs pre-budget consultation in Sudbury on Tuesday.
It’s been several years since they received a grant increase, she said, since which time food prices have skyrocketed and the number of meals delivered more than doubled after 2019.
“We will definitely by next February/March start seeing schools making decisions to cut back, limit or shut down altogether,” she told Sudbury.com after her presentation.
Although any additional funding would help prevent schools from having to make these decisions, she said a $500,000 boost is being sought to fully fill the gap and deliver the type of programming they believe they should.
The program currently serves 108 schools in the Sudbury/Manitoulin area, with 19,000 meals served per day.
These include breakfast morning meals and snacks, the difference being that breakfasts include at least three out of four food groups and snacks contain only two.
Service varies from school to school, but Young said that more schools’ snacks would be upgraded to breakfasts if adequate funding were to be made available.
With more funding, they’d also replace more of the refrigerators in schools which the province provided approximately 20 years ago and are now falling apart and require frequent repair.
As it did with many things, the pandemic exacerbated the program’s funding shortfall, with schools shifting to pre-packed foods instead of the less-expensive foods prepared and divvied out on site. Meals also began being delivered straight to classrooms, so was more easily accessed.
“They're hungry and they’re eating it,” Young said.
Many volunteers dropped off during the pandemic, which Young said they’ll have to reverse in order to stretch their dollar further and shift away from the pre-packaged options.
The $1.2-million program currently receives $750,000 in provincial funding, with the balance covered by a combination of grants and donations, with additional support provided by volunteers picking up food “on their own dime,” in-kind contributions and additional help from schools, Young said.
Appealing to the committee on Tuesday, Young urged them to boost funding for School Nutrition Programs not only locally, but also across the province (Sudbury-Manitoulin is one of 14 regional organizations), as they’re all dealing with similar underfunding.
“What will happen to those children who are dependent on those programs, who need that food in the morning?” she asked.
Tuesday’s pre-budget consultations were part of a series of meetings held throughout the province. More information about the consultations can be found by clicking here.
The morning’s presentations in Sudbury also included local pleas for such things as affordable housing subsidization and funding for The Spot, the city’s only sanctioned supervised consumption site which is slated to close at the end of February due to a lack of funding.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.