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B.C. students lose access to important fresh food program

VICTORIA (May 11, 2021) – The BC School Fruit and Vegetable Nutritional Program, which provides fresh B.C. fruits, vegetables and milk to students, appears to be nixed after B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham refused to acknowledge whether program funding will be continued.

“This represents a huge loss for students in nearly 1,500 public and First Nations schools across the province,” says BC Liberal Agriculture Critic Ian Paton, MLA for Delta South. “Teachers have told us this program is the only way for some kids to access fresh produce, which is so important for a growing child’s health and nutritional needs.”

Since February, the BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation has been asking government for the $3.5 million needed to continue the program for the 2021-22 school year. The Foundation told the minister it would need an answer by May 10, 2021 so that farmers could plant in time and so 4,000 volunteers could be organized — but the deadline has passed with no funding put in place for the program.

“Why would the minister abandon a program that not only supports students, but farmers as well?” asks Paton. “More than 1,000 B.C. farmers stand to lose income from growing and providing products for this important initiative. It is a win-win for everyone involved, yet the minister hasn’t been in a hurry to act to save it.”

Paton questions the government’s priorities, given that the budget for the Premier’s Office rose by nearly the same amount that could have been used to continue nourishing B.C. students.

VIDEO CLIP: MLA Paton questions Minister Popham on fresh food program

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