The province has missed a deadline to fund the BC School Fruit and Vegetable Nutrition Program, an initiative of the BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation.
AITC had asked the province for a response by May 10 so it could make arrangements with farmers and prepare to roll out the program when a new school year begins this fall.
While the province expanded the agriculture ministry’s budget this year, including funding for local purchasing programs, it has yet to find the $3.5 million in funding AITC requested.
The misstep jeopardizes the future of a program that supplies hundreds of students across BC with local produce.
BC agriculture minister Lana Popham came under fire in the legislature on May 11 for missing the deadline, with Opposition MLAs questioning her priorities.
“Can she please explain why her government is eliminating funding for a program that has provided half a million students with fresh BC fruits, vegetables and milk?” Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong asked.
Delta South MLA and agriculture critic Ian Paton noted in a press release that farmers also stand to lose.
“Why would the minister abandon a program that not only supports students, but farmers as well?” he asked. “More than 1,000 BC 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.”
Popham acknowledged the importance of the program but noted that funding to date has been from the BC Ministry of Health. She indicated that the next round of funding would be through Feed BC.
The mandate letter she received last fall outlined partnerships with the BC Ministry of Education to expand Feed BC to primary and secondary schools.
“We will be working together with the association and the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education to look at how a program can continue,” she told the legislature.