FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, June 9, 2015
Students participate in the Walking School Bus, an adult-led walking group to school at Grosvenor-Wentworth Elementary in Halifax during Walk to School Month in October 2014. Recent data shows an average 4.5 percent increase in students using active transportation among the schools with which EAC works.
K'JIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Nova Scotia’s government no longer supports little Jane and Johnny walking to school. Budget cuts announced in April included a 100 percent cut from the Department of Health and Wellness (DHW) to the Ecology Action Centre’s longstanding and highly successful walk and bike to school initiatives as well as its program to help municipalities create more walkable and bikeable communities.
“This will hurt kids across the province,” says Janet Barlow, Active Transportation Coordinator with the Ecology Action Centre (EAC). “At a time when active transportation is held up nationally and internationally as a key solution to reduce inactivity and obesity among children and youth as well as lower greenhouse gas emissions, our government suddenly just cuts these programs off at the knees.”
The EAC works with 24 schools and over 2000 students from Yarmouth to Sydney to Kentville on walk and bike to school initiatives. Every day, these students are walking or cycling to school, learning pedestrian and bike safety and doing so in more walkable and bikeable communities. EAC’s work with municipalities benefited all those who walk and bike, including our growing senior population.
“It is a shame that the province has decided to cut funding for proactive health programming such as provided by the EAC, particularly when educating our youth in the benefits of active living is so critical to building long-term healthy habits,” says Siobhan Doyle, a parent at Bridgewater Elementary. “The EAC provided the impetus for school travel planning in Bridgewater and our community has seen many impressive results, including an increase in student walking and cycling, due to the EAC's strong leadership and ongoing support.”
Raylene MacLean, a parent from Inverness Education Centre-Academy, agrees. "The Walking School Bus is a tremendous thing. It helped build confidence in my daughters to walk to school. My oldest daughter has anxiety and has had some challenges being on the bus; once the Walking School Bus came along it was a relief for her to be able to walk with familiar friends. It started off her day right."
While appreciating that tight budgets might require some reduction in funding, the EAC questions the rationale and timing for eliminating all funding to the only DHW-funded program that focuses on active transportation programs for schools and children. This is happening as other provinces and states across North America are increasing support for walk to school programs, not cutting it.
Nova Scotia’s healthy living plan called Thrive contains explicit support for EAC’s School Travel Planning, Making Tracks and Municipal Active Transportation programs. With the funding received from government the EAC has been able to leverage significant additional funding. This year’s contribution was expected to be $105,000.
– 30 –
Please take action and let the government know what you think of the cuts to walk and bike school programs.