Kamloops advocates working to address child poverty

By Jill Sperling
November 24, 2016 - 4:27pm Updated: November 24, 2016 - 6:22pm

KAMLOOPS — The BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition has released its 2016 B.C. Child Poverty Report Card. 

The report is based off of 2014 data from Statistics Canada, which shows 19.8 per cent, or one in five, children from zero to 17-years-old live in poverty. 

While the statistics are two years old, the issue of child poverty doesn't appear to be going away in Kamloops, and support providers are taking notice.

"It always jumps out to you when it's children," said Kamloops Food Bank Executive Director, Bernadette Siracky. "34 per cent of the people who we serve here at the Kamloops Food Bank are children."

Siracky said food banks across Canada are seeing an increase in youth aged 18 and under using their services. 

"We want to ensure that our kids are going to school with breakfast, with lunch. We want to make sure that our babies are getting formula so that there really is a hope for a better future, and a different future."

Schools are also trying to ensure children are fed. Arthur Hatton Elementary School provides breakfast and lunch to children in need with help from the Food Bank, the United Way, and the Boys and Girls Club. 

Vice Principal Lori Bradstock said around 20 students are signed up for the breakfast program, but the school does its part to make sure no one goes hungry.

"There are ways to feed them, and that's what's important to us, making sure that they're fed," Bradstock said, "because when they're at school we want them to be fed, we want  them to be safe, and we want them to learn things."

Despite having a higher rate of child poverty than the national average of 18.5 per cent, Premier Christy Clark, speaking in Kamloops Thursday, Nov. 23, said the province is making the right moves to decrease poverty. 

"We've got a better record in terms of reducing child poverty than any other province in the country," Clark said. "We are also the most expensive place to live in some cities, so it makes it harder to reach that goal. But, we are working on it every day."

Clark added it's not the children who are in poverty, it's their parents.

"The answer to that is to support people through a rich social welfare system, and help them get a job, help them find the skills that they need to get into the workplace."

Until that happens, parents and their children will continue to rely on food banks and school lunch programs, services that meet an immediate need, but don't provide a long-term solution to ending poverty.

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