Ecole Isabella Dicken Elementary School (EIDES) partnered with the Salvation Army to assemble baskets of essential items for distribution to select students and their families. The baskets contain everything from food to baby supplies, and are delivered on a weekly basis to those in need.
Operating since April 6, the initiative referred to as the Meal Program uses school funding, COVID-19 relief money, and product donations to assemble the packages. The Salvation Army contributes basic food and household items including pasta, protein, snacks, and juice. EIDES then uses roughly $45 of their funding per basket, alongside contributions from affiliated programs to add more specific items such as diapers and formula.
“This program shows that our community can come together. Even though we aren’t able to have the kids in the school, we want them to know that we are still there and able to provide them with support. We’re a school community, and we are here for them,” said Teyadora Woeszczak-Macvicar, a youth care worker at EIDES. Woeszczak-Macvicar initiated the program alongside educational assistant Val Luznar-Purdy, and Aboriginal support worker Kerry Peters.
Much of the donated food products are sourced from the Breakfast Club of Canada program. The program, which EIDES has been a part of since November 2019, typically offers students complementary meals each day prior to school. While some students enrol in the program for social reasons, others rely on the meal assistance. Due to school closures and the inability for the program to continue functioning, the food typically intended for the breakfasts is now donated to the Meal Program. EIDES also runs the BC School Fruit and Vegetable Nutrition Program, where enough produce to feed 500 students is dropped off at the school every three months. The truckloads of food from this program are also added to the baskets.
Woeszczak-Macvicar is exceedingly grateful for the educational assistants and volunteers from throughout the community who have helped put the baskets together, as well as the bus drivers who have assisted with deliveries every Tuesday.
In order to assess which families were to receive the baskets, teachers from the school distributed surveys towards the beginning of the pandemic inquiring about the need for meal support. The surveys also asked if technological aid was needed for students to continue their education from home. Using that information, staff from EIDES compiled a list of families to receive meal assistance, alongside a list of those to be given iPads with preloaded programs and learning material, or over the phone technological support.