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NDP leader stops in Nanaimo to push for Canada-wide student lunch program

Jagmeet Singh volunteers at Loaves and Fishes food market
Lisa Marie Barron, Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP, and Jagmeet Singh, federal NDP party leader, were at a Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank food market on Friday, March 8. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)

The leader of the federal NDP was in Nanaimo last week pushing for a program to feed students across the country.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Lisa Marie Barron volunteered at a Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank food market Friday, March 8, and discussed the party’s proposed national school lunch program.

The two pointed to the fact that Canada is the only G7 country that doesn’t have that sort of program. Singh noted that the B.C. NDP proposed a program to cover 20 per cent of lunch program funding for students.

“We want to see the federal government step up so we can cover 100 per cent…” he said. “We can look at the way other countries are doing it. How is Germany, how is France, how is the U.S. doing it? Make sure we’re delivering the best program to cover students in the best way possible.”

The 2024 federal budget is scheduled to be revealed next month and Singh pointed out that the Liberal government had promised such a program in 2019.

Barron, a former Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools trustee, said she knows well the importance of school food programs. She saw first-hand the impacts of students showing up hungry, which she said affected their learning, relationships and capacity to be present and happy.

“So in my position federally, I’ve been pushing for, instead of a patchwork approach, where we see people doing grassroots work to provide the programs required, to see a national plan across Canada so that all students can have access to that food that they need and deserve,” said Barron.

Food security continues to be an issue in Nanaimo. According to the school district, 750 meals are provided daily to students via the Nanaimo Ladysmith Schools Foundation.

Peter Sinclair, Loaves and Fishes executive director, said 4,630 people accessed food bank services in January, which represents an increase of close to 24 per cent over January 2023.

READ ALSO: Mid-Island food banks see funding ahead of holidays

Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

After interning at Vancouver Metro free daily newspaper, I joined Black Press in 2010.
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