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School breakfast and lunch programs are on hiatus in the Tri-Cities during the COVID-19 pandemic but that doesn’t mean kids are going hungry.
Hundreds of hampers of fruits and vegetables are being packaged up at Centennial, Gleneagle and Riverside secondary schools and delivered via school bus to food banks in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody.
The aim of the partnership between School District 43 and Share Family and Community Services is to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to families needing to use the food bank during this uncertain time.
“It’s a great opportunity to help the community — it beats sitting at home,” said Jeffrey Fagan, who works as an assistant to teaching chef Adam Jonas at Centennial but is now ordering food and organizing the hampers.
Fagan and Jonas are usually crafting menus and organizing food — while also teaching kids the culinary arts — but due to COVID-19, schools are closed, and kids are learning virtually resulting in large spaces in high school teaching kitchens.
Now these spaces are being used to sort food, said Share CEO Claire MacLean, while the food banks try to keep up with the demand for nutritious ingredients.
MacLean said Share food banks support 1,900 local families and she expects to see more people in the coming days as the economy struggles with business closures and people needing extra help to get by.
For the school district, it’s a way to get food to families while schools are closed.
SD43 is using funds it normally spends on school lunch programs to buy groceries for the food bank, according to assistant superintendent Rob Zambrano, while it also supports families directly through local schools.
For example, school staff are delivering backpacks full of food with staples paid for by community donations to families who need them. Backpack Buddies and Starfish Packs are regular programs that run through the school year — and they haven’t stopped despite COVID-19 concerns.
“Many are continuing get that extra support,” Zambrano told The Tri-City News, while the new program to augment food bank hampers is ensuring the broader community gets help, too.
Each week as many 360 packages of potatoes, carrots, onions, fruits, granola bars, beans and other staples are packed up at the local high schools and delivered by staff to the Share food bank, which distribute them.
While the need is great, Share’s McLean said there is plenty of food for everyone and she encouraged those who need the additional help to come, even if they’ve never used the food bank before.
“Our staff are there to ensure everyone is comfortable,” she said.
There is no special paper work or proof of income required, all that is needed is current iID and proof of address for all adult members of the household.
The three food banks are: at Share’s offices in Port Moody, Trinity United Church in Port Coquitlam and Hillside Community Church in Coquitlam. Food is distributed on Wednesdays, but people are encouraged to come at times dictated by the first letter of their last names.
For more information on special provisions during COVID-19, visit here.