Hamilton: Better or Worse? More students need meal programs

The number of elementary students in Hamilton is declining, but the number who need school nutrition programs is on the rise.

In 2013/14, Hamilton had 160 nutrition programs

It’s worth looking at, advocates say, that the number of elementary school kids is declining in Hamilton, but the number accessing nutrition programs just keeps going up.

Both the public and Catholic boards report a decline in students. The public board has closed a number of elementary schools in recent years, and is poised to close more.

But demand for the program just keeps going up, says Deirdre Pike, manager of Tastebuds, Hamilton’s student nutrition network. And even though the number of programs has increased in recent years, so has the demand.

Numbers from the Regional Student Nutrition Program show that the demand for school nutrition programs is on the rise.

During the 2009/10 school year, 22,200 Hamilton students accessed nutrition programs.

That number has increased each year, and in 2013/13, 25,356 students needed the program.

In 2013/14, Hamilton had 160 nutrition programs.

In the last year, the network has benefited from new provincial funding for nutrition programs, which allowed organizers to serve more children, says Arlene Everets, the program’s Hamilton Niagara supervisor.

But the increase “is amazing when you consider that school enrolment tracks down.”