Adopt-a-School and COVID-19

Adopt-a-School and COVID-19

With schools closed needy children are missing out on breakfast and lunch

There isn’t an institution in the world — from the largest and most powerful to the smallest — left unshaken by the hammer blows of COVID-19.

The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund Board, with its six directors, qualifies as one of the smallest. Regardless of size, this pandemic is demanding that every group and individual do what can be done to prevent the coronavirus spreading and to be ready to help those most affected by it.

For the unfortunate victims, medical help is being mobilized.

But what of the other victims, the impoverished families relying on food being available at school to feed their children?

With the pandemic closing schools there will be no breakfast and lunch to keep their children going.

The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School (AAS) program was feeding those children in many schools across the province but now that food supply has been cut off.

Concerned staff in some school districts are considering how best to help their most vulnerable children and families for whom access to food is imperative.

With this in mind the Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund board — which administers AAS — will liquidate $100,000 from an emergency fund to be used to assist these new programs.

Also we will be continuing our Adopt-A-School campaign for as long as necessary and are asking readers to join us in mitigating the hunger of impoverished children which must inevitably follow the closing of schools.

In Nanaimo Susan M’Gonigle, the North Zone Community School coordinator along with other concerned teachers are planning a mobile food delivery program.

“We have 16 schools with breakfast clubs, a number of them receiving AAS help which makes such a difference,” she said. “Each has about 30 children that need feeding. But with schools closed after Spring Break how are we going to feed them?

“And not just them, we need to feed their families as well because we know they don’t have enough food.”

The group is planning to deliver a weekly food basket — probably from the back of a truck — that will feed a family of four.

At a rough estimate they will be attempting to feed about 1,000 people.

The plan is to get what food they can from the Loaves and Fishes Food Bank in downtown Nanaimo and supplement it with donated food from grocery stores, local farmers and restaurants.

While the cruelty of this pandemic needs no describing, what should be described is the effect this indefinite suspension of school will have on impoverished children.

Holidays for the children of working or middle class families are times to look forward to — a nice break.

But for the poor school holidays are bleak times — times of uncertainty, hunger, and greater privation than when school is in and they can at least be fed and helped.

Nanaimo principal Brett Hancock who runs the school district’s alternative school program spoke in December of the fear he sees in his students when holidays — such as this month’s spring break — are approaching.

“When there’s a two-week break coming — you can see it in their eyes. They know they will be going without,” said Hancock.

Sarah McKay, who administers the Surrey Safe Schools team which helps the most vulnerable children in that school district wouldn’t argue with any of that.

Her team helps over 100 youth — certainly the most troubled kids in Surrey — many are poverty stricken and holidays are neither a happy or safe time for them.

When news came this week that schools wouldn’t reopen, McKay immediately took a credit card and bought $5,000 worth of grocery gift certificates.

She and her team then went to the homes of the most vulnerable families and handed them out.

“We’re constantly checking in,” she said.

For Hancock and McKay leaving impoverished teenagers without a reliable source of food is not to be contemplated, nor is the cruelty of leaving their younger siblings in that state.

Furthermore, this newspaper would not be doing its duty if these children were failed.

“We have asked for your help in the past and it hasn’t been denied,” said Harold Munro, editor-in-chief of The Vancouver Sun/Province and board chair of The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund.

“Our readers’ generosity feeds thousands of children each year. We never expected that a pandemic would turn our lives upside down but it has.

“What is happening is affecting everyone on the planet but we must get through it together. We will all suffer but the poor will suffer most, as they always do.

“Please, if you can, help us respond. This is beyond a crisis.”

gbellett@gmail.com

By Gerry Bellett (gbellett@gmail.com)

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