Province to review school breakfast, lunch programs

Manitoba is reviewing its in-school meal programs, developing an anti-racism policy directive and increasing its list of community schools — a designation that comes with additional funding — to address the effects of poverty on student learning.

The final report of the poverty and education task force, which was announced in September 2021, was made public on Friday.

The 86-page document contains nine overarching recommendations and draws from feedback collected from more than 2,000 people, many of whom live in and with poverty.

Committee members were tasked with researching the effect of poverty on educational outcomes and coming up with ideas to reduce barriers to schooling related to food access, technology, and transportation.

“This report will be invaluable as the Manitoba government continues working to improve educational and well-being outcomes for students in Manitoba,” Education Minister Wayne Ewasko said in a release.

Ewasko announced his office’s commitment to an “ongoing review” of the report’s recommendations.

The department will immediately assess breakfast and lunch programs, set clear expectations and guidance on implementing anti-racism strategies in K-12 buildings, and expand the community schools program, he said.

Under the program, a school serves as a hub of services and resources in the community.

All of these facilities are typically in inner-city and high-needs neighbourhoods and have a designated staff member — known as either a community liaison, community connector or community support worker — who provides families with non-academic support so children can focus on learning.

The province has earmarked $595,000 to give five more schools the title and related support, bringing the total number of community schools to 41 provincewide.

Among the authors’ recommendations are calls to provide barrier-free transportation and devices to impoverished students, update curriculum to discuss the root causes of poverty, and take into account communities’ socioeconomic status in a modern education funding model.

Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press