John Barsby Community School SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

School Name: John Barsby Community School

School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

Inquiry Team Members: Holly Knox:
Jane Reynolds:
Russell Berg:
Tammy Elliot:

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

Grade Levels: Secondary (8-12)

Curricular Area(s): Other: Building school strength and community

Focus Addressed: Other: Building school community

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Improving student attendance, engagement and academic success through a comprehensive, twice daily, free school meal program.

Scanning: In our “new normal” September, we inquired with students and observed changes in our school feeding programs. Our community meal providers — in-house breakfast and lunch programs, hamper program and traditional cafeteria service — were completely absent; students felt this directly, as not only was the food absent, but so were the service people who the students felt cared about them. Also, having two very long periods per day with “nutrition breaks” and a mid-day break that, at best, has students in classrooms eating a lunch from home, presents some serious problems for those who have not brought food—these kids were going to go all day without food. We have a 30% poverty rate and this experience could happen every day for many. We started a free breakfast and lunch contactless delivery snack cart using funds secured through grant writing and food donations from community partners.

Focus: We aimed to connect, engage and create community for our students, in hopes to improve attendance, in-class engagement and academic success. We thought full bellies and breaking bread together twice a day would be an effective path towards this goal.


  • All meal programs at our school were cancelled — we had a hunch that this would deeply effect many of our learners.
  • We had a hunch that if every student could be certain that they would not be hungry at school, they would come more often.
  • We felt that eating together would bring us together, as a classroom and a school.

New Professional Learning: We looked to pay our good fortune forward and offered free meals to two local feeder schools and the Snuneymuxw First Nation hamper program when they were in lockdown.

Taking Action: We relied heavily on student input to mold, shape and move forward with our program. The school’s student population offered plenty of feedback on ways to improve our cafeteria menus, our delivery model, our carbon footprint (we used disposables to serve food), and ways to broaden access.

We were proud that our program caught the eye of our local mayor, the Honorable Leonard Krog; our local MLA, Doug Routley; and BC Education Minister, the Honorable. Jennifer Whiteside. We were interviewed by all three.

Checking: We checked our historic data and we experienced a daily attendance rate improvement of 3-9% from pre-Covid times. Serious student incidents and office referrals also decreased. We are waiting on other data reference points.

When surveyed, we found that students felt that they were taken care of; they were grateful for the presence of the snack cart meal program. They said they felt certain that there were people who cared about them at the school; the students who delivered the food were noted by many students as people in the school who cared about them.

Reflections/Advice: We deeply believe in the power of a progressive free meals program in BC schools; we will continue to advocate for school meals in BC. We will continue to apply for grants to fund our program into the future, and work with community partners so our students will never go hungry while at school. Connections to community groups/members has been an incredible asset and resource for our program. Please contact me at: if you have questions about our program.

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