Niagara Nutrition Partners still working hard to get students the food they need during COVID-19 closures
Under normal circumstances, Niagara Nutrition Partners provides 17,000 students a nutritious breakfast, lunch and/or snack daily in more than 180 school programs across the Niagara Region.
“It’s certainly unsettling for an organization like ours to have schools closed.However, with heavy hearts, we appreciate and support the ‘why’.” says Jessica Stephenson, Program Manager.
In partnership with school boards across Niagara, Niagara Nutrition Partners (NNP) launched a grocery gift card program in response to the COVID-19 closure. Principals and teachers have been identifying families in need and to date, $250,000 worth of cards has been distributed. “It’s a collective effort, with everyone working together. Students are still learning at home and they need to eat right to be able to do that successfully,” says Anne Kirkpatrick, NNP’s staff advisor.
As the lock-down and job loss continues, families are reaching out to their teachers via the virtual classroom and sharing stories of hardship. Many of these students have not required aid in the past. NNP has launched additional fundraising efforts specific to newly identified children and families. It’s a wrap-around approach that attempts to alleviate the overwhelm food banks are feeling from all the new faces looking for food provisions.
NNP’s social media highlights the initiative. One parent writes, “My family has never had to reach out for support in the past. It was such a relief to cook my kids a proper meal.”
Stephenson expressed her gratitude, “People have responded in the most generous ways. Teaching staff donated personal dollars. The need is great, but our community is greater.”
For further information or to donate, visit www.niagaranutritionpartners.ca
Picture: Jessica Stephenson, Niagara Nutrition Partners Program Manager holds a bundle of gift cards in front of the DSBN education Centre in St. Catharines.