School District 47, in partnership with Friends of Powell River, has coordinated with a number of community organizations to ensure students who need assistance can continue receiving lunches while schools are providing learning remotely.
According to district principal of learning and innovation Kristen Brach, students are either being provided groceries to make lunches or picking up prepared lunches at locations near their home each school day.
Brach said organizers have tried to coordinate with a location close to where people live. She said most families live close to an establishment that is willing to participate. There are some families where they do not have access, perhaps because of transportation issues, so groceries are purchased for them.
Groceries are delivered to the school, and families can pick them up, or the school delivers them. The same goes for the coupons for food.
In terms of an uptick in demand for the lunch program because of COVID-19, Brach said it was initially thought there would be more people accessing it, but now that the program is rolling, there may be more demand.
“My gut feeling is it is going to increase, just given the nature of what is going on,” said Brach.
She said the program started with families with whom lunches are typically provided for at schools when school is in session, but she said school principals have also been made aware that if there are families who could benefit from the program, to let organizers know, and those in need can be added to the list.
Brach said Friends of Powell River has provided a huge support for the lunch program.
“They’ve done a really amazing job of supporting our food programs even when school is in session,” said Brach.
Sue Cecconi, who with her sister Melanie Jordan coordinates Friends of Powell River, said it’s a good partnership with School District 47. She said her organization relies on school principals to direct the families needing the support.
“The principals are in touch with all of the children who are in need,” said Cecconi. “We need that support from them and the feedback on what they need.
“Our objective has always been to get families what they need in a timely manner. The school district is involved in helping us find out what the need is.”
Friends of Powell River has been involved in a number of fundraising ventures to help underwrite programs it has helped with. Cecconi said businesses and organizations have been more than willing to help out when asked. The response, she said, has been amazing.
She said the organization has existed for about 14 years, starting out at Henderson Elementary School and eventually expanding to encompass the whole school district. She added that the program has enabled Friends of Powell River to fill holes in the gaps that exist in the community in a confidential and respectful way.
Cecconi said with the onset of COVID-19, students who were receiving help at the schools were no longer receiving it, so efforts are underway to ensure students still receive what they need.
“My sister and I wondered how we could get a food program working in the summers and over the breaks when children aren’t at school and this has kind of pushed us to figure that out,” she said. “We’re looking into, after the pandemic, if we can feed the kids over the breaks.”
Cecconi said the program is coming together well and has been a good learning experience to see how quickly people respond. Time will tell how many people will use the program but in its third week, it appears to be working well, she said.
“It’s been a good thing to get going,” said Cecconi. “The support we are able to provide matters.”
Brach was appreciative of the community effort to make the program work.
“Thank you to the many organizations and individuals helping make this program possible, including Rotary, Subway, Sunshine Coast Health Centre, Georgia Strait Women’s Clinic, Pacific Point Market, T&R Contracting, Gordon Foods, 100-Plus Women Who Care, Top of the Hill Grocery, Tim Hortons, Save-On-Foods, Lang Bay Store and Black Point Store,” said Brach.
“If your child is in need of this program, please contact your school principal,” said Brach. “We didn’t want it to be at the board office because it’s hard to ask for help. We thought most families have a relationship with their principal already. It could even come through their classroom teacher. We’re trying to keep it as stress free as possible.”