Emergency food hubs provide needy children with sustenance
Emergency food hubs set up by the Vancouver school board have distributed thousands of meals this week to impoverished children and families including those affected by job loss due to the coronavirus.
The hubs, which are under cover, are open for two hours each day in 53 city schools.
It’s an attempt to feed children who relied on school meals for sustenance but with schools now closed, breakfasts, lunch and snacks are no longer available to them.
This year The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School (AAS) campaign had sent almost $900,000 to 105 schools across the province to feed and clothe needy children. But that program has been interrupted by schools being closed.
In order to keep feeding children, AAS launched a COVID-19 campaign two weeks ago which has sent over $200,000 to schools to buy grocery cards for needy families or to provide off-site food delivery programs.
The fund has sent $50,000 to help Vancouver with its emergency food hubs following a request from the school district. This is just part of the $97,000 that has been sent by AAS this week to Vancouver community centres, individual schools and other groups feeding hungry children.
“We’ve been operating since Monday,” said Matt Redkwich, a business development manager with the Vancouver school board. “We’re still trying to figure out logistics. If we find one site running out we’re making adjustments.”
The prepackaged food, made by an outside commissary, is stacked each morning on tables by principals. There is no waste.
“It’s all going,” said Redkwich. “We are using social distancing to keep everyone safe. Right now we are planning to run until June 30.”
Vancouver and Surrey — the two biggest school districts in B.C. — were quickest off the mark to get food out to needy families.
Surrey began distributing food aid last week to the most vulnerable families in the district. Staff from Surrey’s Safe School program had visited these families distributing $5,000 worth of grocery vouchers. By Wednesday of this week they had distributed another $4,000, said Sarah McKay, the administrator of Safe Schools.
Surrey also has a number of “grab and go” food distribution sites at schools, said McKay. “People can drive up or walk in but for families who can’t do this we have been doing drop-offs at their homes. We’ve done about 150 in the first three days this week.”
McKay said staff were concerned about providing families with other necessities such as baby food.
“We have people in desperate need of help with layoffs and all the other things which are happening,” she said. “We are trying to find out who needs help and what they need.”
So far Surrey has asked for and received $27,000 from the Children’s Fund AAS COVID-19 fund. Over the last two years Surrey has received almost $750,000 from AAS for impoverished families.
Meanwhile, in Nanaimo food and assistance to children and families began being distributed Thursday. The school district has received $25,000 from the COVID-19 fund.
“We are reaching out to families to identify their needs for food, clothing and shelter,” said Brett Hancock, principal of the Nanaimo-Ladysmith alternative school program. “School district child-family support workers will be delivering food to our most in-need (today) and throughout the next few weeks.”
Hancock said support from the Nanaimo-Ladysmith Public Schools Foundation, others in the community and Adopt-A-School for suffering families, was “heartwarming.”
“A lot of the support and sense of community was initiated” by The Sun’s AAS campaign, he said. AAS has been helping Nanaimo schools for a number of years.
Hancock shared the following message which he received from one student:
“Brett, you and the other teachers make me feel like your family. My stomach is empty right now and (I) appreciate the food that you are sending. Please know that although my stomach is empty my heart is full …”
By Gerry Bellett (firstname.lastname@example.org)