School district food program retools to fill growing need

Shirley Boy is out of work and has two children at home, so the meals she picked up last week from Reynolds Secondary School are a godsend.

Included on the menu were a tomato pasta dish, macaroni and cheese and shepherd’s pie.

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The food is being distributed by the Greater Victoria School District as an extension of its school-based lunch program.

Now that schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, district officials and community partners have joined forces to ensure families in need are still being supplied with nutritious food.

“It’s a good help for us,” Boy said of the meals provided. “Especially since I’m cleaning houses, I’m self-employed and I don’t have a job right now.”

Education assistant Ruth Stamp volunteered to pick up food for six families she knows from Quadra Elementary School that are benefiting from the program. Getting the food home is an issue for some people who don’t have vehicles, she said.

“Lots just walk and bike, so to come and get a lot of food is a little bit difficult, and we have a vehicle.”

The food being provided comes from the Food Share Network, local restaurants, the Ministry of Education CommunityLINK (Learning Includes Nutrition and Knowledge) and the Rapid Relief Fund.

The Rapid Relief Fund is a combined effort by the Jawl Foundation, the Victoria Foundation and the Times Colonist to raise money to assist people in need due to COVID-19. The fund is allowing the retooled food program to double the number of meals being provided to district families through the lunch format.

The school district has been divided into four distribution zones, said associate superintendent Greg Kitchen, with food given out at Reynolds, Esquimalt Secondary and Lansdowne and Central middle schools.

Truffles Catering was already involved with the lunch program and now Zambri’s is providing meals, as well, said Kitchen, noting 1,000 families have received about 10,000 meals through the four zones each week. “We’re currently working with some other food providers and garden-community representatives to look at how we can expand that.”

Kitchen said the families receiving food have been identified at the school level.

“Having said that, we also know that the need is likely going to be increasing over time, and we invite families if they’re struggling and having a hard time to contact their schools, contact their school principal.

“In most of our schools, we have a skeleton staff and typically, our principal or vice-principal, as well as some clerical staff, are there to receive phone calls.”

Kitchen said it’s hoped the capacity of the program can be expanded over the next weeks. He said district officials also have other community services they can link families to.

Victoria Foundation CEO Sandra Richardson said the effort is an example of “the spirit of generosity in motion,” while Jawl Properties director Karen Jawl said she is impressed by the speed at which the school district was able to “pivot and adapt” its lunch program to continue helping those who need it most.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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HOW TO DONATE

Tax receipts will be issued. If you are open to receiving your tax receipt by PDF, please include an email address with your donation.
• Online: RapidReliefFund.ca
• Phone: 250-381-5532
• Mail: Send cheques (made out to the Victoria Foundation) to RapidRelief Fund, Victoria Foundation, 200-703 Broughton St., Victoria V8W 1E2

The Rapid Relief Fund was created by the Victoria Foundation, the Jawl Foundation, and the Times Colonist to help people in need as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. CHEK Television, Coast Outdoor Advertising and Black Press are helping to boost awareness. Every dollar received from donations goes out as grants to the community.

Donations are being distributed through the Victoria Foundation.
victoriafoundation.bc.ca/rapid-relief-fund-disbursements

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