The program is run by the Grocery Foundation and Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO).
Schools save up to 75 per cent of the retail cost of items like milk, yogurt, whole wheat bread and fruit with the vouchers.
“Too many school children are coming to school hungry,” said ETFO president Sam Hammond, in a press release.
“Every day, elementary teachers witness the tremendous impact hunger has on a student’s ability to learn. The direct correlation between poverty and student achievement is why we initiated this program.”
The Grocery Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation formed by major grocery chains which generates funds through “Toonies for Tummies” and other fundraising efforts.
ETFO works with its local presidents to identify those schools that would benefit from the program.
There are more than 400,000 Ontario children living in poverty, of which 149,000 used food banks in 2010, the press release said.
Because inflation has driven minimum wage earnings 19 per cent below the poverty line, advocates want the minimum wage in Ontario increased to $14 an hour, which would lift people out of poverty.
“These children are our future, but they need food in their stomachs to succeed. We need to do everything in our power to address the poverty that exists in our own backyard here in Ontario,” Hammond said.
ETFO has created a number of programs that assist teachers to work with school communities to ensure children in challenging circumstances are successful in schools.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario represents 76,000 elementary public school teachers and education professionals across the province and is the largest teacher federation in Canada.