COPE Vancouver School Board Candidates Suzie Mah and Rocco Trigueros announced today that, if elected on October 15th, they will bring forward a free universal meal program for Vancouver elementary schools and high schools.

“Current meal programs in Vancouver schools are a big hit and miss,” says Suzie Mah, one of the two COPE candidates seeking a trustee position in this fall’s civic election. “Many of Vancouver’s students are coming to school hungry and many families are finding it increasingly difficult to provide a nutritious breakfast or lunch for their children. Research has shown that nutrition affects a student’s ability to learn. Achieving a free universal meal program would not only help those students who come to school hungry, but it would save families money.”

The history of meal programs in Vancouver schools goes back to the late 1980’s. At the time, the school board partnered with the Ministry of Education and City Council to come up with a four-year pilot program that would see over 3,000 elementary school students served lunches. In 1992, the provincial government added more funding, and the hot lunch program was expanded to more elementary schools and two high schools.  

Today in Vancouver schools, there is a varied approach to providing breakfasts and lunches for those families who have either been identified or come forward as needing food support. Some schools can raise funds or work with food providers in the community to give children a hot breakfast or a bagged lunch, while other schools have lunch programs where it’s a ‘pay what you can’ to get a meal.

“Asking parents to pay what you can and asking them to fill in a form to request a free lunch is demoralizing,” says Rocco Trigueros, COPE candidate for school board. “Students quickly see who is handing in forms or going to the lunchroom with a punch card and this stigmatizes students and negatively impacts their self-esteem. By having a free universal lunch program for all students, all students see each other equally when it comes to food at school.”

The Coalition for Healthy School Food is a national organization advocating for funding and support from the federal government for a universal cost-shared program in all provinces. “The Vancouver School Board has endorsed the Coalition’s goals, but little action has been taken by our school district to address the current situation in Vancouver schools,” says Mah.

The Vancouver School Board recently adopted a ‘Food Framework’ which on page 5 of the 26-page document talks about the need for a universal school food program. “But the framework is a 10-year plan.  By the time this plan is implemented, some of our district’s students will have never benefited from this,” says Trigueros.

Both Mah and Trigueros, want to see quicker action on this issue and more pressure applied at both the provincial and federal levels to address food insecurity so that Vancouver students can have access to healthy and nutritious food which is critical to physical and emotional health.

COPE School Board candidates, Rocco Trigueros and Suzie Mah



COPE: [email protected]


Background information

For more information about The Coalition for Healthy School Food:

For more information about the VSB’s Food Framework: