By Mike Howell

If re-elected with a majority, Mayor Gregor Robertson and his ruling Vision Vancouver party promise to spend $400,000 to double the amount of money dedicated to the Vancouver School Board’s breakfast program.

The budget for the program is currently at $200,000, all of it raised through charitable donations. The program serves 650 students breakfast every morning at 12 elementary schools.

The $400,000 would be provided from the city and means 1,300 students could receive breakfast, said Mayor Gregor Robertson at a press conference Thursday to announce his campaign promise.

“There is no reason why in a city as compassionate and prosperous as Vancouver that every kid shouldn’t have a good start to the day and a warm meal,” he said on a sidewalk outside Strathcona Elementary school, which has a breakfast program. “That is one way to make sure that every kid in Vancouver can succeed and achieve their dreams.”

The mayor, who is seeking a third term in office, challenged other levels of government to match the $400,000 contribution, which he said would come from a contingency fund.

Asked whether the city’s contribution would be the beginning of more funding for programs that should ultimately be funded by the provincial government, Robertson said it was important the city make a statement and commitment first.

Patti Bacchus, the school board chairperson and member of Vision Vancouver, noted last year’s breakfast program had a $60,000 shortfall. Bacchus, who is also seeking re-election in November, said the $400,000 will give stable funding to the program.

Bacchus said the most cost effective way to deliver the program is through the schools, noting it costs about $1.80 per child per day to serve a nutritious breakfast.

“Which would be far more expensive to set up in any other way,” she said, noting the current budget can fluctuate depending on charitable donations. “If the donors don’t come through, or there is a gap, then we can say there is funding there and we can continue, at minimum, doubling the program.”

News of Vision’s promise quickly reached Kirk LaPointe, the NPA’s mayoral candidate who on July 14 — the day he announced he was running for mayor —  talked about doing more for poor children in Vancouver.

“Gregor Robertson has had six years to develop this program and hasn’t,” LaPointe wrote on his blog Thursday. “His group clearly heard that I have been talking about this idea in community groups and in discussions from the first day of my candidacy, so their announcement today is designed to take on the idea. I wonder how much people can trust him to do that, given that he hasn’t pursued it to date. But the idea is essential if we’re going to build the Vancouver we want, and I know I can deliver it authentically.”

The NPA also released a video today, telling LaPointe’s story of poverty. As a child, LaPointe said in his first press conference, he grew up in poverty in west Toronto where he never knew his father. He only met his brother when he was seven or eight, his mother having to choose whom she could afford to raise before sending one child to live with relatives in New Brunswick.

"I have a great deal of understanding of what that life is like to have an empty stomach when you go to school," he said, noting some days he resorted to eating butter and sugar sandwiches. "And those are people that I would prefer to focus on."

The NPA has yet to roll out its platform or give specifics on what a breakfast program or programs devoted to children would look like.

The election is Nov. 15.

Original Source: http://www.vancourier.com/vancouver-votes/election-news/vision-vancouver-promises-to-boost-breakfast-program-for-kids-1.1379959#