New Westminster funding nutritional programs for young parents

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

28 comments

farmers market.jpg
Should city taxpayers be paying for nutritional programs for young parents?

One of the great new hip things popping up in neighbourhoods throughout Metro Vancouver these days are farmers markets. They first caught on with chic urbanites in Vancouver proper, but are increasingly showing up on city streets and parking lots throughout the burbs. In New Westminster, City Hall approved the establishment of a new farmers market a couple of years ago and it’s quickly become a popular place to shop for fresh produce and meet your neighbours every week. My family has shopped there numerous times and we all agree it’s a great addition to the community.

When I read The Record newspaper last week, it was hard to miss a front-page story about the market and how it’s going to re-open again this year. Prominently featured in the story was the fact the City of New Westminster was providing a grant of $10,000 to help support the market and young parents.

The program is a partnership between the New Westminster Farmers Market (NWFM), Shiloh-Sixth Avenue United Church and the City. It provides 60 young parents (mostly young moms) with $15 coupons to buy products sold at the market. The hope is they will use those funds to buy locally grown produce and increase their nutritional intake. The program was originally funded by the Province of BC, but they ceased funding it in 2010 after they went through a round of budget cuts.

As much as the program sounds beneficial, I have to ask why the City of New Westminster feels it is their responsibility to be funding these types of programs with scarce property tax dollars. Funding a nutritional program for young mothers seems like something that should fall within the mandate of either the provincial/federal governments who have much deeper pockets than the City of New Westminster.

Whatever happened to the days when cities used to worry about building curbs, installing street lamps and making sure the sewers work? Today there doesn’t seem to be a program that falls outside the mandate of cities like New Westminster. Whether it’s homelessness, nutrition, chicken coops, outer space treaties...you name it, a city near you feels that they need to dabble into these policy areas.

Meanwhile, taxes in the City of New Westminster (and most other major centres in Metro Vancouver) continue to far outpace the rate of inflation. Perhaps it’s because cities can’t say no to programs that, although they have a lot of merit and benefits, should be funded by senior levels of government who have the mandate and the capacity to support them.

It’s going to be hard to take cities seriously when they cry poverty over a lack of funding when they continue to pay for programs that clearly fall outside their core mandates. I can attest to the fact there are a number of “core” programs and initiatives the City could have used that $10,000 to fund, but chose to subsidize a nutritional program instead.

It may be early days yet, but I can’t help but think that property owners in New Westminster will one day wake up and say that their tax dollars need to be more wisely invested. We’re in an election year, so who knows, maybe that dialogue might start up in a few months or so.

What do you think? Should cities be using property taxes to be funding programs like those in New Westminster? Let us know by leaving a comment or voting in our online poll.

NOTE: The Royal City Farmers Market is open every Thursday, rain or shine, from June 9 to Oct. 6 from 3 to 7 p.m at Tipperary Park, just East of city hall. The market also holds winter openings: The next two are scheduled for March 12 and April 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Holy Trinity Church.

-Post by Daniel

28 Comments

I completely agree, programs like this should fall on the provincial and federal governments, it's their responsibility.

Having said that, the City of New Westminster is also right to fund this important program because the provincial government is failing in their duties. It's a form of downloading, the provincial and federal governments have been neglecting their duties for years, and so the cities have had to pick up the slack.

What's the city suppose to do, let these children grow up malnourished and have these young mothers not gain needed food preparation skills? That will be a significant additional cost later down the road, particularly on the school board who will have to deal with these under-developed, hungry children. The city is simply picking up following the province's utter failure.

Tough times, good times, it doesn't seem to matter for this provincial government, the most vulnerable are always the ones facing the brunt of the continuous cuts. Perhaps your outrage should be better focused on another piece of this story, the fact this City funded program is replacing a program that was previously funded by the province, the rightful target of any anger. If they hadn't cut this vital program, New Westminster could focus on paving curbs (or as I'd prefer, making new greenways and improving pedestrian safety).

I approve of the concept and what is being done, I disapprove of paying for it at the municipal level. This should be done via a provincial/federal grant.

I think this is a very important but not really the financial responsability of the individual cities although I applaud the efforts of New West.

On a Side note I believe that the centre area of the olympic village would be a perfect candidate for a farmers market! It goes with the sustainability idea of the community as well will draw people to the area for other reasons thany buying condo's (which may inspire more business to open in that development)

Interesting idea to put a farmers market at Oly Village. It would likely be very popular with the locals...and the setting/view would be spectacular.

True, this program would have better been funded by the provincial government but it is a fantastic program! De-funded by the BC Libs, it is now 50/50 funded between New Westminster and the Royal City Farmer's Market. Other farmer's market societies have also been able to arrange for local versions of the program.

One key feature of the program is the education portion, that offers home economy/food budget skills and cooking skills. Some new Canadians may be at a loss as to what to do with out the food they are used to. Other families may just not have passed on these skills. It is a way to foster self improvement.

This (and other)municipalities have been funding community efforts for decades, if not since the beginning New West's history. That today's city chose to allocate a small portion to benefit at-risk families should be no surprise. It is, after all, a fraction of the city's parade budget.(ha!)

Thanks for highlighting our market. I am really keen to see the Nutrition Coupon Program succeed and RCFM is very grateful for the funding. If I can just make two teeny corrections (both errors from the Record's article): it is for up to 50 families, not 60, and the final Winter Market is April 9th not 19th.

And the idea of a farmers market at the Olympic Village is great.

Matt;

Everybody wants the 'government' to fund every program under the sun, yet no one wants increases in taxes.

44% of our provinicial budget goes to medical, which everyone complains is not good enough - but nobody wants to pay more for their MSP premiums.

We have the first waive of baby boomers heading into retirement which is going to take a huge chunk of tax dollars out of the system and at this point, no immediate replacement for that loss. When the government made their last round of 'cuts' I have to admit I was shocked that we taxperys were funding some of the programs we were to begin with. The government is not a 'baby-sitter', yet that is what it has grown into.

So belt tightening by this government or any government has to happen. Cuts get made or taxes go up. That is the choice.

If the city wants to fund this program then that is their call - but it should not be at the detriment to the everyday runnings of the city.

I support farmers markets and local producers, but their product is typically more expensive than your average grocery store so a $15 coupon is not going to go far.

Personally, I would like to see elementary schools use part of their grounds as a teaching garden. The children's classes could alternate days or weeks to which they look after the garden and in-turn, the produce could be sold to the parents - market style at a reasonable cost and those monies put back into the school. I would bet you could get sponsorship from local companies to assist in the set-up costs.

It would teach kids about where their food comes from, how it grows and the pride at the end of the day when it is harvested.

It is astonishing how many young people can't or don't cook - at all.

People have become so reliant on packaged meals or fast food and we see it in the bulging bottoms and increase in other health issues which contribute to our ballooning health care costs - which are no longer sustainable.

And no where in the article did it mention there were classes teaching food prep skills to these 'young mothers'.

At one point in time, people didn't have kids until they could afford them. Now, they have them and the balance of us support them - through welfare etc.

Reproducing without thought is not the fault of the government - yet, the government takes on the responsibilities after the fact.

It would be great if the province had continued to fund this program and I agree, it is more of a provincial and/or federal responsibility. But I think it's appropriate for a municipality to be concerned about the well-being of its citizens. If the two other level are shirking their duties, I don't have a problem with city council stepping in. I just exchanged some e-mails with the city's engineering department regarding the crappy condition of a road in my neighbourhood. I'd like the road to be fixed, but I'd like people to be properly fed more.

Love the idea of a teaching garden in schoolyards.... what ever happened to shop and home economics classes?

"At one point in time, people didn't have kids until they could afford them."

You could grow a garden in that sentence... because it's a load of manure. People are more likely to hold off on having children now than at any point in history.

Isn't there an old saying that what takes a married woman 9 months a bride can do in 6?

Canadian pregnancy rates by age:

http://www40.statcan.ca/l01/cst01/hlth65a-eng.htm

"Personally, I would like to see elementary schools use part of their grounds as a teaching garden. The children's classes could alternate days or weeks to which they look after the garden and in-turn, the produce could be sold to the parents - market style at a reasonable cost and those monies put back into the school."

So you literally want parents to pay for the fruits of their children's labour, grown on land that's publicly owned? And the kids get nothing but an 'education'. Smacks of slavery.

Are there no poorhouses? What's next? A modest proposal?

Chris:

Why do you think there are so many children living 'under the poverty line'?

Young girls having babies and not being able to care for them is part of that problem.

Where the fathers of these children are is the $99 question, but hey, many don't want to man up and take on their responsibility so they walk away and those kids and their mother become the province's responsibility.


Next up, divorce. Society has made it easy and very acceptable to walk away from your partner and again, the kids are hard hit. Many go from a double income family to a single income family.

Immigration, new families coming here do not initially have the financial means to support themselves.

Welfare was never designed to be a 'lifesytle' yet we have allowed it to become one and we have advocates that support that lifestyle.

Kids that grow up with parents on welfare will many times stay in that cycle.

I worked in banking for 8.5 years. If a parent was collecting welfare, once their kid(s) hit 16, they could also collect welfare. They would tell social assistance that their parent was charging them rent, and boom, the cheque is in the mail. One family in the area I worked had kids of their own as well as foster children (I still can't figure out how they got foster kids as their own had frequent run ins with the law). They were pulling in over $4K/month in government payments. Now this was back in the mid-80's. Mom didn't work, dad didn't work, teenage kids didn't work...all collected welfare.

Are you aware that West Vancouver was named as one of the top areas in BC for child poverty?

Chris, sometimes you do out do yourself.

Parents are asked to pony up in order to support various programs that their kids participate in school.

This past Christmas, I was asked to donate some product to an elementary school that was holding a Christmas shopping event for the kids.

It allowed them to buy presents for family members with the money going back into the school for other programs.

You under estimate children. I would venture most would love learning to plant vegetables, watch them grow and sell them at the end of the day. A sense of accomplishment as well as a good learning experience - both for the kids and their parents. Hands on experience as part and parcel of the classroom has its benefits.

For that matter, some of the produce could be used by the school kitchens to help with their resepective hot meal programs.

As for your cry about using public land for a garden, I guess by your standards it is only the private sector that is expected to support community gardens and such.


@ George:

I don't know if either of those courses are taught to class anymore.

I would hope trades are still an option for kids in high school as there are many kids that don't want to go the academic route.

I worked with a young woman who got married 2 years ago. She could not cook, her new husband did much of it. She had lived at home until she was married and mom did all the cooking.

Like I said, it amazes me how many young people (women and men) that cannot cook even the basics.

"Parents are asked to pony up in order to support various programs that their kids participate in school."

Yeah, they have to buy boxes of chocolate some child sold into slavery helped create. Great lesson for the kids.

"I would venture most would love learning to plant vegetables, watch them grow and sell them at the end of the day."

Well, I have no problem with kids learning how to garden. My issue is your suggestion that they should essentially do it for free and then cash-strapped parents should pay the school for the privilege. If you grow it, it should be your right to dispose of it as you see fit. One of the underpinnings of our society AFAIK.

Have you considered the logistics of rolling out this program? For starters, there's two months in the middle of the growing season when kids aren't in school.

"Why do you think there are so many children living 'under the poverty line'?"

Don't evade your original statement Max. You said there was a time when people waited to have kids, like there's some golden era of Planned Parenthood in the misty past. Nonsense. The average age of a mother is trending upwards, precisely because so few people can afford to raise a child in the first years of adulthood/marriage.

@ Max
I was being a bit cheeky, I'm from the generation when we took those classes, canned fruit with our Granny's... ect.

It seems that during the 70's we started raising our kids differently, after the bra's got burned...

for some reason we started doing more for our kids...now I find it hysterical watching how kids are raised...

As for the slave labor crap....hardly! our kids now are so coddled now that it is laughable...

Just to put the matching funds that New Westminster is contributing to this RCFM-led program to improve nutrition of the City’s most vulnerable families into a little perspective. All numbers from New Westminster’s recently released 2011-2015 Financial Plan

This represents 0.01% of the City’s $81 Million 2011 Budget.

I know you would rather they patch the sidewalk in front of your house, but this 10K represents 0.15% of the City’s annual $6.5 Million Capitol Budget (the part that goes towards patching sidewalks).

I know you worry about utility infrastructure, but this $10K represents less than 0.07% of the $15 million in profit that the City’s 4 utilities plan to transfer into reserves in 2011

For every dollar of precious “spiralling” Property taxes you pay this year, this $10K represents 0.0175 cents.

And seeing as how Police Services are the largest proportion of your Property taxes (27%), this $10K would represent less than .05% of the police budget.

This is not a story of “core services” being stripped to fatten the ample bellies of lazy welfare mothers, nor is it an example of government largesse running amok. Instead of criticizing a City for stepping in to help a program that does good, why won’t you take issue with the Provincial Government who continues to strip away their own “Core Services”? With Liberals lining up to anoint a new Premier next week, why are hungry children not an issue?

"If you grow it, it should be your right to dispose of it as you see fit."

Is this the same Chris Keam who was such a big fan of communal cultures now promoting individual property rights? Does this extend beyond growing vegetables?

Chris, I stand by my orignial statement 'At one point in time, people didn't have kids until they could afford them. Now, they have them and the balance of us support them - through welfare etc.

Yes, there is a current trend of women waiting to have kids as more women are taking a post secondary education and more women are entering into or are in the work force.

There has been a change in what defines your typical 'family values'. Women are no longer reliant on a partner for support, nor are they 'expected' to get married and have children.

But, this has been a change that has been evolving with time.

We have been going through an era of MTV movies and Britnay Spears providing 'moral guidance' to our children, because parents are too concerend with being their child's friend first and parenting afterward. Kids are having sex at ridicuously young ages and 'accidents' happen. I watched a program on 'K' network last week that profiled young gilrs 10-13 participating in 'Rainbow' parties.

It was both shocking and sad.

And as I look back to when I was in high school, I can honestly say, no one in my school got pregnant. All of the people I associated with graduated, went on to post secondary or worked, and then got married and had kids.

And then there are the young women that are so in love with their boyfiend, they figure this is a way of hanging on to them. That does not work, and what we end up with is single young moms who struggle. Again that falls back to parenting.


A publisher friend and I were discussing the % of women graduating and working in the field of geology - 60%.

This had been a primarily male dominated career.

We also discussed the upswing in women graduating post secondary eudcation ss compared to males.

The saying he passed through to me 'boys figure they are too cool for school'. (FYI, his wife is a teacher)

One more thing, as you look aroung at yung single moms, notice that the majority of them are caucasian or FN - you don't see young Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) women fall into that category - different family values.

What a silly rebuttal Pat. Why doesn't the City fund some hip and knee replacements? That would only be .67% of their budget.

Why not build more social housing? That would be only .32% of their budget.

How about setting up an immigration settlement office? That would only be 1.2% of their budget.

Before long, you add up all these pennies and you actually get some real dollars.

That's what's wrong with you NDP types. You simply think the money grows on trees. Someone else can pay to fulfill your dreams.

Well guess what, we're tired of paying to accommodate your never-ending need for social change. Pay for it yourself.

Or, why not ask people to voluntarily add this small % to their tax bill and see how much support you'd get.

This program has nothing to do with running a city and just admit it. The fact it costs only $10K is a complete red herring in my opinion.

Hi George:

We had home ec and woodworking at the high school I went to, but honestly, I don't know if they offer these types of courses anymore.

When I was growing up we all had dinner together and eating out was a 'treat'.

But then again, fast food places weren't littered up and down the block.

As for child labor (LOL) - when I was 11 years old, I spent the summer picking blue berries on a farm in the Pitt Polder area (more commonly known as Pitt Meadows). I went out with my little girl friend and her sister, who was old enough to drive. I beleive we got 1.5 cents per pound. Was I forced to do this - not a chance. It put some money in my pocket (my parents were far from wealthy) and with that money I bought a second hand bike (that should make Chris Keam happy).

But then again at home, we were expected to do chores and keep our room clean when I was a kid.

I was on the Sky Train the other day. Next to me were two young guys heading home from school. The one asks were the other gets off - he stated Lougheed Mall. From there his mom drove from Port Coquitlam to pick him up. The other asked how old he was, and he replied '22'. He also went on to state he lived at home, did not pay rent and did no chores. He loved it.

And we wonder why some things are they way they are.

From what I understand, coddling children is a North American thing. Not so popular in Europe or Asia.


Max, no truer words were ever spoken...

off topic, go to AGT site, explosive news just released.... talk about truth...OMG, some media folks are choking right now!!

FYI - Corrections

It's great that the local communities are assisting those in need in their communities. It's a win win program.

The BC Association of Farmers' Markets received three years funding for a province-wide Farmers' Market Nutrition & Coupon project. The project did not loose funding due to budget cuts. The funding simply ended.

Heh heh heh. “NDP Type”. You know me so well. Me and Adrian Dix: like brothers.

The point I poorly made is that the City has a modest amount of Grant funding to make the City more “civil”, and this $10K is not going to take away from Daniel’s all-important sidewalk rejuvenation program. This program, which is one of the smallest line items on the City’s annual budget, is fund-matched and organized by a volunteer non-profit, addresses a social need in the community, and makes the City more livable for some people, is not really putting the community in financial straights. If just one of the families assisted keeps just one child from having a run in with the justice system or a stay in the hospital, this investment in the community will pay off many times.

By they way, these are my pennies, not yours. I am a taxpayer in New Westminster. I am paying for it myself. We are asking people to voluntarily add this to their tax bill, as you can see the 2011-2015 Financial Plan is currently up for public comment. Representative democracy, my friend.

Just curious, How do you determine what constitutes “Running a City”? I go to CivicInfo and I see headlines like “Nanaimo Launches 2011 Woodstove Changeout Program” , “$18M Seniors Supportive Housing Opens in Burnaby”, “Golden Community Bike Share to Launch in Spring 2011”, “Abbotsford Adopts Public Art Policy”, all at least partially funded by property taxes. Many would argue much of what a City does doesn’t directly go towards “running a City”, but you would need to define your terms.

@Bill:

Where did I say I was a big fan of communal cultures? You guys make me laugh with your bizarre assumptions. The issue Max raised was putting children into a state of indentured servitude in exchange for an education. If you want to defend that premise be my guest.

I should take a stand for kittens and lollipops, just to sit back and watch y'all come up with contorted reasons why they're the work of the devil.

@Max:

"As for child labor (LOL) - when I was 11 years old, I spent the summer picking blue berries on a farm in the Pitt Polder area (more commonly known as Pitt Meadows). "

I had a part-time job for a year before you picked your first blueberry. Year-round work, rain or snow.

I will note that in your example you got to keep your money, unlike the premise you originally put forward, where you wanted kids to work as farmhands to top up the school budget.

@Pat, perhaps your part of town has sidewalks, mine does not. Been that way since I moved here, and nothings but promises from city hall that one day the streets will be upgraded. All these years my tax dollars have been going elsewhere in the city, as you so keenly note.

It's great the RCFM has the financial bounty that they can give back to the needy of our community. Perhaps instead of lobbying city for additional funds, they should collect donations (food or financial) from the markets patrons.

I'm sorry, but it's not the responsibility of the municipal government to put food in peoples mouths when they have so many other ancient priorities yet to tackle.

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