While all students in the public school system are losing classroom hours because of the teachers strike, some face a more desperate situation – they’re going hungry.

At least 12,000 impoverished kids are missing out on breakfast, lunch, or even weekend meals because they can’t access school meal programs while schools are closed.

“It’s frustrating for us because we have a really simple goal and that’s to feed these kids and we don’t have any way to do that right now,” said Emily-ann Griffiths, who runs Backpack Buddies.

Backpack Buddies provides backpacks of food to about 350 kids at three different Vancouver schools every Friday.

But the organization depends on the schools to connect them with the kids – and while schools are behind picket lines their organization has lots of food – but no one to give it to.

“We have no access to children now. We haven’t had any since the strike started at the beginning of the summer,” Griffiths said.

It’s the same story at Vancouver’s Queen Alexandra Elementary’s meal program – a room full of empty chairs and tables with no kids here to eat.

In all about 12,000 students in Surrey and Vancouver school districts access school meal programs.

Without them kids may not be getting good nutrition, said Gerhard Maynard, who operates Kidsafe, which runs meal programs for about 490 kids.

“I would argue we’ve passed the point where it’s too much,” he said. “For vulnerable children we’ve passed the tipping point. Families are already in very challenging circumstances.”

One bright spot: even though Vancouver’s Strathcona Elementary is closed, Strathcona Community Centre is open. Staff there say they are offering lunch as well as breakfast, feeding about 80 kids a day.