Recent Articles in ‘Stories’

Douglas Road

Study hails benefits of breakfast program

By GERRY BELLETT A low-cost school breakfast club has had a “significant positive impact on students” and reduced late attendance of participants by 22 per cent, a new study shows. The study, conducted by the SFU Beedie School of Business, was undertaken to assess the effects of The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-a-School breakfast program on students […]

Hungry families in Surrey

Community comes to rescue of hungry families in Surrey

By GERRY BELLETT Such is the state of poverty in some North Surrey homes that a family recently had only a single onion to eat between them all weekend. “That’s all they had,” said Liane Ricou, an official with the Surrey School Board. “We know of families that don’t even have that. They’ll go all […]

Corey Mandryk

Union member leads effort to reinstate breakfast programs

By GERRY BELLETT Two Surrey alternative schools that had lost funding for their emergency breakfast programs will be helped to feed 50 hungry children this year through the efforts of telecommunication union members. This is the fourth year that Corey Mandryk, a member of Unit 60 of the Telecommunications Workers, United Steelworkers Local 1944, has […]

Beaver Creek

Donation will feed 800 hungry children; Lohn Foundation’s $100,000 helps out 22 schools

By GERRY BELLETT When you have arrived in Canada — a Jewish child with holes in your boots and no rational way to explain how you survived the Holocaust — being in a state of poverty is a definite step up in life. “I know all about children being hungry,” says Jack Kowarsky, 76, unconscious […]

Beaconsfield Elem

Telus donation ‘best news ever’ for Beaconsfield Elementary

By GERRY BELLETT It was raining heavily outside Lord Beaconsfield elementary on a cold and bleak Friday morning in East Vancouver. But there was sunshine — of sorts — inside when principal Deena Kotak received $25,000 from Telus community investment manager Nicole MacLellan for a much-needed upgrade in the school’s collapsing computer systems. “This is […]


SOS room is a real lifesaver

By GERRY BELLETT Each month the SOS room in the basement of Norquay elementary offers a lifeline to as many as 14 impoverished families. The acronym stands for Support Our Students but it’s too close to the international Morse signal for immediate rescue for there to be any doubts what it’s all about. And Margaret […]


Refugees face hurdles in Canada

By GERRY BELLETT Anyone thinking Syrian refugees have arrived in the Promised Land once they touch down on Canadian soil should consider they are really being airlifted into poverty. Like the Hafiz family living in the growing Syrian enclave in Surrey, they might be safe from bombs and bullets but their journey to a normal […]


Schools stand up for parentless kids

By GERRY BELLETT The indelible image of the Broadway musical Les Misérables is the haunting poster of the child, Cosette, the large eyes, the ragged clothes, the hair streaming sideways caught in the wind of revolution. It’s a brilliant visualization of deprivation and the trademark for the world’s most successful musical, seen by an estimated […]

Charles Tupper

Humble storeroom becomes closet for everyone

Sir Charles Tupper Secondary pupil Emma Takahashi (foreground) and her fellow Charlie’s Closet volunteers go over clothing to be given away. by GERRY BELLETT Two years ago Adrienne Beaton and Joe Lee only imagined they would be clothing impoverished students at Sir Charles Tupper Secondary School when they opened Charlie’s Closet in the school’s basement. […]

Old Yale Elementary

Policy failures put schools on front line of child poverty

Old Yale Elementary in Surrey provides a breakfast, snack and lunch program for between 40 and 50 children daily. Doy Valenciano is the breakfast co-ordinator behind the counter serving the children. By DAPHNE BRAMHAM Anyone who questions whether child poverty is real in British Columbia should go back to school. Schools are at the nexus […]

Britannia Homework Club

Pulled back from brink; After-school program flourishes, expands following near-demise

By GERRY BELLETT Four years ago, Kim Leary’s Homework Club at Britannia Secondary was floundering. Leary, the club’s executive director and a teacher at the East Vancouver school near Commercial Drive, was contemplating shutting it down. Money was almost gone, there was barely any food to entice students into saying behind after school, and the […]

Walter Moberly

Children outnumber technical aids they could use

By GERRY BELLETT Walter Moberly Elementary is over 100 years old and when it comes to teaching its special needs and autistic students, this East Vancouver school — technologically speaking — is still in the horse and buggy era. Oh, it does have three iPads for special needs. But as vice-principal Karl Graham admits, when […]

LD Toy Run

Truck makes hefty Christmas haul; London Drugs marks fifth annual toy run with donations to five schools

By SHELLEY FRALIC It’s not a sleigh, and there are no reindeer, but there are Santa’s helpers, so when that big blue and white truck pulled up outside Bonaccord elementary school in Surrey on Wednesday morning it was like Christmas had arrived early for several dozen of the school’s neediest students. As London Drugs’ Wendy […]


Money is important, but so are volunteers

By GERRY BELLETT It’s 7:30 a.m. — barely light out — and Surrey principal Shauna Ross is talking about the positive effects of feeding breakfast to children who need it. She’s in early and so are the volunteers making breakfast in a small kitchen at Hyland Elementary. It’s not just the food, she says, although […]

West Coast Alternate

Special kids cooking up life skills. Students with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder need groceries to keep Wednesday cooking program.

By DAPHNE BRAMHAM Sam Horn had never chopped broccoli or cut up chicken thighs before. And, from the look on her face, the former vegetarian preferred cutting the broccoli to the chicken. But she stuck it out through the two, big value packs needed to feed her and her 18 schoolmates. Dustin Thorkelsson — West […]

Langley Secondary

Homeless teens often stay hidden

” By GERRY BELLETT Homelessness among teenagers is an invisible epidemic, says Dawne Tomlinson, principal of Langley Secondary. “You will see homeless adults in Langley but you won’t see homeless teenagers because they are invisible. They wear all the right things and stuff because they are so much more vulnerable if they look homeless: vulnerable […]


Poverty isn’t just an inner-city problem

By GERRY BELLETT Carley Romas has spent most of her career in inner-city schools on the east side of Vancouver, where there were resources for impoverished children. But now she’s on the south slope and it’s been an unpleasant surprise. “There’s a big difference in the amount of support schools get from outside agencies,” said […]


Poverty a growing concern in Guildford

By GERRY BELLETT For the past three years, staff at Surrey’s Bonaccord elementary have been manning the barricades against a rising tide of poverty that’s beginning to overwhelm them. This school of 530 students is in Guildford, an area in “transition,” says principal Jacob Sol. Which is a way of saying this North Surrey neighbourhood […]

Maple Ridge

Volunteers and bus tickets needed in Maple Ridge

By GERRY BELLETT Suburban living doesn’t get much better than in Maple Ridge, says Trevor Connor, principal of Maple Ridge Secondary. And on a bright day in the midst of the tidy, well-kept homes that surround his school, it appears self-evident. But — appearances notwithstanding — not everyone here is living the suburban dream. “Because […]

Hungry Children

Hungry Children: The story stays the same

By SHELLEY FRALIC I am weary. Weary of writing about bad news that never seems to change, weary of telling the same story over and over, weary that no matter how important the message being imparted, we as a people seem unwilling to tackle the societal dysfunction staring us right in the face. So, here […]

Strathcona Comm Centre

Strathcona centre nourishes the DTES: From breakfast to backpacks to food banks, programs feed every need

By GERRY BELLET VANCOUVER — There are two institutions to be found at 601 Keefer Street in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside — the Strathcona Community Centre and Ron Suzuki. The centre is more sanctuary than fitness club and Suzuki, its recreation director, is a local legend despite his reticence to take any credit for attempting to […]

Douglas Road

Students well-served at Burnaby school: Beedie Development Group support means daily breakfast and lunch once a week

By GERRY BELLETT It’s Friday and lunch day at Burnaby’s Douglas Road Elementary and there’s nothing but joy on the face of principal Mary-Ann Brown as she dishes out the macaroni and cheese to the line of waiting children each holding a plastic container and spoon. “We do this once a week and the kids […]

Boston Bar

Boston Bar school growing own vegetables to feed students

By GERRY BELLETT It may well be the smallest school seeking help from this year’s Adopt-A-School campaign, but the 60-pupil elementary-secondary school here has the biggest ambition. And that is to provide an abundance of vegetables for everyone in the school — especially children whose families are struggling financially — and for the community’s food […]


New tech needed to help hurting kids

By GERRY BELLETT Principal Deena Kotak often relies on the word “complex” when talking about her school and the needs of its children. She is responsible for Lord Beaconsfield Elementary at Penticton and East 20th and its annex — Alderwood Family Development Centre — five blocks away on Kaslo and East 18th. “Complex” is a […]


Hungry children need our help

By GERRY BELLETT Some dangerous childhood conditions can be prevented in seconds: measles, mumps, polio, meningitis, diphtheria. But there’s no inoculation against hunger, no needle in the arm to ward that off. It takes three meals a day to prevent hunger and its companion, misery. Yet for many children living in poverty, three meals in […]

Donation gives east-side Vancouver school new hope

By GERRY BELLETT When the school year began last September, the number of parents volunteering to serve on Cunningham Elementary’s parent advisory council (PAC) would have fit in a broom closet. Then the very idea that the parent body of this East Vancouver school could provide the numbers or the will to organize the school’s […]

4-Apr-2015 Couple saw need

Meet the ‘foster parents’ of Twelfth Avenue Elementary

By Shelley Fralic David Westrheim was reading his Vancouver Sun one Saturday morning not long ago when he happened upon an Adopt-a-School story detailing just how many local schoolchildren show up at school every day not having eaten breakfast. “By the time I got through it, I was weeping,” says Westrheim. “I just had no […]

Hungry kids and not enough classrooms only part of Surrey’s budget woes

By Daphne Bramham It’s a miracle that anybody wants to be a school trustee in British Columbia. The government has them in strait jackets. It sets their budgets and every year gives them less to work with. They have no way to raise more money aside from begging for donations. They don’t negotiate salaries even […]

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2000 Children go hungry in Vancouver schools every day; But with board budget cut by $18M this year, there’s no money for extra food services

By Gerry Bellett Despite efforts by the Vancouver school district to feed impoverished children, there are still 2,000 students going hungry every day, according to a district report. And it will cost an estimated $1.7 million to feed them – money the district doesn’t have – says the report from the food services department. The […]

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Who will feed Vancouver’s 2,000 hungry school kids?

By Daphne Bramham There is something deeply wrong in British Columbia and with our government that thousands of children are hungry and school districts are forced to beg private donors for food on their behalf. The Vancouver school district feeds breakfast and lunch to 5,000 elementary and secondary school children every day. But it says […]


Don’t Mind If I Do

More than $5,900 was raised for the New Westminster Senior Secondary’s Youth Program on Sunday at a Vancouver Sun Adopt-a-School fundraising dinner. The dinner was hosted by Anthony Gismondi, The Vancouver Sun’s wine critic, and Jane Ferrari, a storyteller from the 165-year-old, family-owned Australian winery Yalumba Wines. Program co-ordinator, youth worker Carl Lewis, was in […]


Boston Bar’s only school wants to grow food for hungry kids; Principal hopes to fix up greenhouse to supply fresh produce

By Gerry Bellett Spring has come to the coast but up here in the heart of the Fraser Canyon there’s still a winter’s chill on the wind as Debra Devine, principal of the community’s only school, wrestles with an old, rusty lock guarding a broken-down greenhouse. The building – if she could only fix it […]


New Westminster food program casualty of budget cuts, leaving needy students hungry

BY GERRY BELLETT British Columbia schools have been subjected to budget cutbacks in recent years, but one day in November 2013, the families of the 2,000 or so students attending New Westminster Secondary School awoke to find the school’s operating budget had been pushed off a cliff. The year previous, the budget had been $800,000. […]