Picture 2,000 children. Now think about all of those children needing a meal every day. That is the need the Vancouver School District continues to meet throughout the COVID-19 pandemic response. Making sure vulnerable children continue to have access to this vital basic is a major focus of the District’s work – and listening to the needs of families is also paramount in accomplishing this critical task.
Under normal circumstances, the Food4School program provides free meals for students who would otherwise be unable to access proper nutrition. It has continued to do so, making daily meals that align with Canada’s Food Guide, available for pick-up. Those efforts have now pivoted to better suit families in the District. When families were asked about their preference between weekly grocery bags or daily lunch meals, many opted for a weekly grocery bag of lunch supplies. About 700 bags of groceries are now handed out each week.
Senior manager, purchasing and administrative services at the Vancouver School District, Michele Kelly, says, “We are continually working to improve the program with feedback from families, principals and individuals distributing the lunches and lunch kits.” She adds partners, suppliers, and teams at the District are the reason why there has been success in extending the Food4School program.
“Our external supply relationships have been key to the expedient nature in which we have been able to pull this together,” Kelly says.
Kelly sums up the response from families as “grateful,” adding feedback has been positive.
Food4School is a joint effort of many different parties. Funding comes from the District, the Ministry of Education and the City of Vancouver as well as donations from organizations and private donors. Two suppliers provide the daily lunches, and the larger kits of five days-worth of food items are assembled by District staff. Kelly says everyone has put their heart and soul into making sure all children who typically rely on their school for a meal each week day continue to have that support.