Tuesday, January 21, 2014

BC Politics

Breakfasts of Champs

Peterson launches war on child poverty  

Released by the Campaign to Elect Rick Peterson, BC Conservative Party


C Conservative Leadership candidate Rick Peterson today launched a Grassroots Growth Project initiative to provide immediate and long-term support for a province-wide school breakfast program as a building block on the “War on Child Poverty”.


Peterson, a Vancouver businessman who helped found an inner city school breakfast program in 1993 that is currently supporting more than 700 children in seven schools under the leadership of a local investment dealer, said that his campaign’s Grassroots Growth Project will help win a key battle in the “War on Child Poverty” by coordinating private sector and government funding to support this program starting immediately.

“Child poverty rates in BC are the highest in Canada,” said Peterson, “and the most visible and devastating aspect of that is seen each and every day in many of our schools across the province when kids come to school hungry, poorly clothed and not ready to learn and grow.”

“Notwithstanding the need for responsible stewardship of BC’s finances, and a real plan to get BC working again, we absolutely need to assure a ‘grassroots’ investment in BC’s kids at this early stage of their lives. Janet Green, my Deputy Leader candidate, will coordinate this effort starting today as we lead this initiative through to the election of a BC Conservative government in 2017.”

Peterson said that the lack of a coordinated and fully-funded breakfast program that targets the neediest schools across BC shows BC NDP and BC Liberal governments for the past two decades have turned their backs on this problem at a huge social, economic and human cost for the province.

“For those of us who’ve worked on school breakfast programs, it’s clear that the government can’t do this on its own, as the BC NDP would like. It’s also clear that we can’t walk away from the problem as the BC Liberals have done and hope the private sector and charities pick up the slack,” he said.

“Our project’s combination of private and public financing to provide a targeted province-wide school breakfast program will be a major battle to win in the war on child poverty.”

The Grassroots Growth Project will do the following:

1.. Immediately help source additional private sector financing and other support for new or existing school breakfast programs. Teachers, parents or anyone who requires help to establish or expand a school breakfast program in their community are invited to contact the Grassroots Growth Project.

2.. Over the next three years work with teachers, parents, non-profit groups and communities across BC to identify schools that have a real and measurable need for a school breakfast program that is not currently being met. A budget will be established, and private sector sources will be solicited to determine their level of support to a full five-year funding cycle of a particular school breakfast program. Final budget and support levels will be determined by December 31, 2016.

3.. In October of 2017 a BC Conservative Government, on the first day of the Fall sitting of the Legislature, will table a bill establishing government support for a clearly defined list of school breakfast programs for a five-year period, based on the Grassroots Growth Project budget totals. The level of government support will be determined by the gap between the total investment required minus the private sector, individual and charitable commitments.

Peterson said that the lack of government leadership on this question has left a patchwork of temporary and inherently unstable solutions from private sector groups, individuals and charities that are still stretched to the limit and cannot cover all the requirements. Economic downturns or individual circumstances can eliminate this support on very short notice.

“It’s going to take a lot of work to see exactly what the costs are of this program, but we should be able to nail that down fairly quickly,” he said. “Based on my experience, the number is around $100 per child per year.”

He pointed out, as an example, a recent Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund commitment of $15,000 per year over five years for a school breakfast program that will feed 130 children in Vancouver’s Champlain Heights Elementary School, meaning an average cost of $115 per student each year.

“It’s estimated that the total population of kids under the age of 15 in BC next year will be just over 700,000. If 1 out of 5 children in BC is living in poverty, that would mean potentially 140,000 children and youth would need a school breakfast program at a cost of $115 per student, for a total of $16.1 million. The final total required would be much less after taking into account private and charitable commitments.

Peterson said that a BC Conservative government will redirect funding from one or more of any number of other areas of the provincial budget to pay for this program.

As an example, in 2011-2012 the Government Communication and Public Relations group had a $26.1 million budget and employed 225 people, including 18 in ‘media monitoring’.

“I’m sure BC taxpayers would agree this money would be better spent on a school breakfast program rather than serving as Premier Clark’s personal PR program and newspaper clipping service, especially at a time when anything they could possibly need is found for free on Twitter.”

A second funding source, said Peterson, could be the Pacific Carbon Trust. Former BC Auditor General John Doyle last year pointed out in a report that the province’s schools were among the 128 public sector organizations that provided $18.2 million to the PCT in 2010.

“That money, and the additional amounts that have come in since then, are clearly better used to feed hungry kids at school instead of being sent back to corporations that have billions of dollars on their balance sheets.”

Learn more about Rick Peterson at www.rickpeterson.net For more information on the Grassroots Growth Project, e-mail here. 


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