The Food First Foundation, a charity that primarily supports nutrition education programs in the North, has set up a Covid-19 relief fund for NWT schools.
Coordinator Tess Ondrack said: “We are inviting schools across the NWT to apply for funding for their initiatives: everything from breakfast hampers, to grocery gift cards, to home-cooked meals delivered to families in need.”
Ondrack put out a call for applications from schools at the beginning of the week. As of Thursday afternoon, 29 of the territory’s 49 schools had applied.
“We have some extra funding that we will be allocating to these schools to help them out, but are also looking for donations from businesses and individuals if they can afford to do so,” she told Cabin Radio by email.
Schools are using the funding to support students who unexpectedly no longer have access to daily free meal and snack programs as school buildings are closed.
In Yellowknife, Ondrack said, the three school boards are working together to provide weekly grocery gift cards.
In Fort Smith, PWK High School is doing something similar. Teachers are sending out grocery gift cards to all families, asking those who don’t need the support to pass the card on to someone who does – or donate it to the local food bank.
Students at Hay River’s Harry Camsell, Princess Alexandra, and Diamond Jenness schools will receive food and grocery gift card boxes at the end of their driveways.
In Behchokǫ̀, two staff members plan to cook more than 600 meals for Chief Jimmy Bruneau School and Elizabeth Mackenzie Elementary School students. The meals will be delivered by community volunteers, who will drop off not only the meals but also grocery hampers on families’ doorsteps.
“Most schools across the territory are looking at either food hampers delivered to doorsteps or grocery gift cards left at the store for families to pick up,” Ondrack noted.
“Initially, several schools simply cleared out all of their supplies from the school kitchen, divided them up, and provided for families in need as best they could.
“Now, more elaborate plans are in the works, with schools coming up with innovative approaches to use their resources wisely while also taking Covid-19-related precautions.”
Ondrack says the cost of running these programs is “extremely high” and donations will be passed on to schools as soon as possible.
If you want to make a donation, visit the Food First website and click “Support Us” in the top-right corner.
Support provided by Food First is separate from the money schools receive through Healthy Foods for Learning, a territorial initiative overseen by the Department of Education, Culture, and Employment.
On Monday, education officials said schools will soon share how their healthy food programs will be offered for the remainder of the academic year.
Community governments are also introducing funding opportunities for families who need extra cash. As a last resort, First Nations and Inuit families in need of support can access Jordan’s Principle funding.
On Friday morning, the federal government said more money to help pay for food was coming – but there was little immediate detail.
“The government will invest $100 million to meet the urgent food needs for the most vulnerable, including people living in northern and Indigenous communities,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“This money will help food banks to buy and deliver provisions to those who need them.”