Ottawa children going hungry

In this year’s World Vision gift catalogue, there’s an option to feed kids in our own backyard and the money will benefit a program for hungry families in Vancouver.

Many might not think our kids are so badly off that they need to be sponsored through World Vision.

“Communities where you wouldn’t expect to be a need, like Barrhaven and Orleans, there’s a need,” said Christine Lauzon-Foley, manager of education initiatives at the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation where she oversees the breakfast program in the city’s four school boards.

The program has been running for 20 years and 11,000 students from 148 schools eat breakfast at school each day.

“A lot of these kids have parents working two or three jobs just to make ends meet,” Lauzon-Foley said.

Some parents are new Canadians. Others never recovered from the hi-tech downturn.

Roughly 60% of the people using the breakfast program are elementary students, she said, adding the remaining 40% is split by secondary schools, alternate schools and adult education centres.

The breakfast program is primarily funded through the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

The rest comes from grants, city funds, in-kind support and the United Way.

Lauzon-Foley said operating on a $1.4-million annual budget is challenging, and to run and fully support the schools, $2.5 million a year is ideal.

The Ottawa Food Bank is “seeing on average a 9% month-over-month increase from last January to July,” said executive director Peter Tilley.

Their annual Drive Away Hunger campaign began Monday.

Last year they raised $200,000 worth of money and food.

In 2009, 3,054 Ottawans spent $558,122 on livestock, school uniforms and medical supplies for children and families in developing countries through World Vision, said communications officer Karen Flores.

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