Last week, the Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows School District and its partner community groups fed more than 470 vulnerable students.
“We continue to provide meals for all the students in our district who were part of our breakfast or lunch programs before our schools were closed for in-class instruction due to COVID-19,” explains assistant superintendent Shannon Derinzy. “Our program has expanded as teachers and other staff are making connections with other families and hearing there is a need.”
The district-wide meal hamper program is made possible thanks to a partnership with the local non-profits Friends in Need Food Bank, Meadow Ridge Starfish Pack and The Salvation Army Ridge Meadows.
Each Monday morning, the local groups deliver food to two designated meal distribution hubs and district staff then prepare the hampers and take them directly to households or arrange for pickup. Starfish, meanwhile, is providing Save-On-Foods gift cards for approximately 110 families each week.
“It’s essential to maintain the continuity of providing meals and supporting vulnerable students and families during this difficult time,” says Derinzy.
Trevor Randle, the chef instructor at Maple Ridge Secondary, is among the team of staff and volunteers who have been assembling the weekly food hampers.
“The success of the weekly hampers is the result of a lot of people working together who want nothing more than to support the community. This is an excellent example of how the Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows School District comes together to take care of one another.”
Jeannie Harnett of SD42 Safe and Caring Schools is coordinating the meal hamper program.
She works with partner community agencies to fill the hampers, takes referrals and arranges deliveries to families.
“Last week, we had 189 hampers that fed 474 students,” she says. “I get a lot of feedback from site coordinators from each school who quite often are delivering the hampers. Families are saying it is very helpful; they appreciate the support right now. So, for us to be able to do that during this time is a big priority, and the district has made it a big priority.”