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B.C. teacher running laps in front of Parliament Hill for national school food funding

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A Vancouver elementary school teacher is drawing attention to funding for a national school food program by running laps around Parliament Hill.

Brent Mansfield is racking up about 30 kilometres around the east lawn of the Hill, but he's not doing it to get fit.

“I'm running 200 laps around this portion of lawn in front of Parliament to once again ask the Government of Canada to honour its commitment to the $200 million they promised to invest in school food,” Mansfield said.

“We need to see it in budget 2024. It was promised in the 2021 election platform and there's been two mandate letters, but it has not let into the budget," he said.

For nearly two years, the federal government has promised to create and fund a national school food policy and healthy meal program. After the pledge was left out of the 2024 federal budget, however, advocates warn the future of schools' ability to keep offering meals to students is in jeopardy.

The Breakfast Club of Canada has also voiced concern over the budget not including funding for this pledge, saying the result is, "children across Canada will have to wait."

"At the rate the federal government is moving, Canada risks remaining the only G7 country without a school nutrition program for months, if not, years to come," said Breakfast Club of Canada president and CEO Tommy Kulczyk in a statement.

The teacher also ran more than 90 kilometres in front of his school in one day last month to raise awareness.

 “We’re currently the only G7 country without a national food school program,” said Heather Norris, president and CEO of the Ottawa Network for Education.

According to Norris, a breakfast program in Ottawa feeds more than 16,000 students at 200 schools, with demand up 28 per cent since last year.

“As you can imagine, in this economic time with the cost of food, with the escalating number of students, it’s very difficult for us to meet the demand,” she said.

School meal programs offering hungry students something to eat already exist in varying forms in all provinces and territories, though federal statistics say that they only reach approximately 21 per cent of school-age children.

On Thursday Mansfield, was joined by others on Parliament Hill in support. Former Olympian and MP Adam van Koeverden also joined in the run.

“I’m lucky that I had my running shoes on today. I decided to run because I’m a huge fan of everybody’s effort to bring forward the National School Food Program,” Koeverden said.

Mansfield also delivered letters to MPs from students from across Canada who are hopeful for change.

“This is really something that needs to happen across all of Canada,” he said.

With files from CTV News Politics and CTV News Vancouver

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