Donor to subsidize milk program cut by school division

Donor to subsidize milk program cut by school division

 

Winnipeg Free Press

Posted: 4:00 AM CDT Saturday, Mar. 20, 2021

A city philanthropist will serve up a $210,000 donation to restore a milk-subsidy program drained from Winnipeg School Division’s budget this month.

“The cut demonstrates a total disregard for the division’s most vulnerable students,” Walter Schroeder said in a news release Friday. “Instead of making cuts from the top, the division has chosen to cut a program that directly affects the well-being of children and youth.”

The $210,000 donation from the Schroeder Foundation will restore the subsidy program, which provides 650-ml cartons of milk to elementary and junior high students for 25 cents. The subsidy was eliminated on March 9 when the division announced its 2021-22 budget.

Schroeder, who grew up in Winnipeg and attended Dufferin School, said the issue of food security in the city’s poorest neighbourhoods is close to his heart, and he recalled school milk deliveries where students would pay a nickel for a pint of milk.

“I remember the clink of glass bottles, the deliveries from the milkman, the importance of fresh milk to growing kids. My mother would give me a nickel to pay for the milk, but I could see not everyone received some,” he said.

“There were families even poorer than ours. The truth is, you can’t learn if you’re hungry. Subsidies like these go a long way in supplementing a child’s diet and helping families who want the best for their kids.”

Schroeder founded the Dominion Bond Rating Service, then sold the company in 2014, allowing him to focus on philanthropy.

His charitable foundation funds a wide variety of initiatives in Winnipeg, and throughout Canada, aimed at providing nutritious food for families and educational opportunities for disadvantaged youth.

It operates a food bank at St. John’s High School in the North End, which typically delivers 100 food hampers to the families of students in need, a number that soared to 170 in the early days of the pandemic.

At St. John’s, the foundation has not only funded the food bank — buying groceries from Downtown Family Foods — but provided bursaries, scholarships and a state-of-the-art cafeteria that provides free breakfasts and nutritious lunches that cost a maximum of $2.50.

It currently provides more than 700 scholarships and bursaries, as well as equipment and other supports to students at three Winnipeg high schools, with donations totaling more than $3 million annually.

The news release said Schroeder became aware of food insecurity at St. John’s during a visit in 2018 when he saw teachers buying granola bars and apples out of their own pocket for hungry students.

“He decided to buy these items for students through the foundation and, throughout the years, has taken this offer much further,” it said, noting the foundation will provide 40 full, four-year scholarships for high school students to the University of Manitoba and 40 to Red River College this year.

Food Insecurity: Our Response

The Walter & Maria Schroeder Foundation provides funding and resources to students in a number of communities in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Entering into these communities, we saw that there were students that had the perpetual challenge of not having enough food to support their physical and cognitive well-being. A major consequence of this is the inability to focus and perform at school, deepening the challenges of these disadvantaged individuals. 

In response, the Walter & Maria Schroeder Foundation developed a series of programs to support these students and help them reach their full potential: 

  1. We found that Mondays were the worst days for students as if they had gone the entire weekend without sufficient meals. To manage this, we initiated a food package program that was distributed to 100 students and provided meals to families over the weekend.
  2. We re-equipped school cafeterias, adding new convection ovens and communal furniture. Creating a space for students to be able to eat, socialize and study. 
  3. To work in this new cafeteria, we hired professional chefs and cooks to prepare up to 200 free and subsidized meals every day to students.

The program is a success – Students in the program achieved measurable increases in their academic performance and physical well-being. The students are grateful for the support, and we are pleased to be able to make an impactful contribution to the lives of these individuals.

North End Winnipeg High School Builds Brand New Cafeteria and Affordable Meal Program

In early 2018, the Walter & Maria Schroeder Foundation pledged $10 million dollars to three underprivileged high schools located in Winnipeg. St. John’s High School, one of the schools to receive the grant, has students who live in a largely single-parent household community where the median income is $40,000. A major issue for students in this community is access to a sustainable and healthy food program.

This year, with the help of the Walter & Maria Schroeder Foundation, St. John’s High School unveiled its brand new Tiger Cafe, an affordable lunch and breakfast program for students. Tiger Cafe offers a communal environment where students can enjoy delicious meals prepared by the school’s new cafeteria. From pancakes and eggs to lemon chicken and lasagna, these meals are prepared in a transformed cafeteria with state-of-the-art cooking and kitchen appliances.

The new affordable lunch program offers students free breakfast and $2.50 lunches –  every day of the week for the entire school year. Meals are prepared fresh and emphasize the nutritional needs a busy high school student deserves. The program is a success drawing excited reviews from students who now look forward to eating their school breakfast and lunch with their peers.

The principal of St John’s, Doug Taylor, says the positive effect of the Tiger Cafe is “a game-changer… [The lunch program] is making a difference. Students are staying here, students are eating.”

The program which is estimated to cost $400,000 a year is fully covered by the grant received from the Walter & Maria Schroeder Foundation.

Empowering Disadvantaged Youth

The Walter & Maria Schroeder Foundation strongly believes that no individual should be disadvantaged as a result of their cultural background. In communities where we have identified this systemic disadvantage, we have provided the funding and resources needed to do our part in helping these individuals. 

To begin this program, we identified schools in Winnipeg with particularly high populations of cultural diversity and poverty. For example, St. John’s High School demographics are 55% Indigenous, 30% Filipino and a high percentage of immigrants. We found that these populations, in particular, are on social assistance and struggle to pay rent, utilities, and clothing. Many live in small houses and share rooms and resources.

The program offered in this school and several others in Winnipeg provide funding and resources to students that will help them both when they are in high school, and in their post-secondary education. We award students for academic performance with bursaries ranging from $150-$300 and recognition in a ceremony with their peers. Students are given bursaries only if their parents are present, demonstrating a family commitment to the students and their education. 

The Foundation also provides several scholarships to students looking to attend college or university. Each year, 10 students a year are given a $7,500 scholarship to a 4-year university program. We also provide scholarships for up to 40 students to attend community college and graduate with a trade or business administration degree.

Empowering our youth – especially those that suffer from disadvantages as a result of their cultural background – is a keystone of The Walter & Maria Schroeder Foundation, and we are proud of the positive change we can make in these communities.