The Ucluelet Secondary School band room was a hive of activity on April 28 as worker bees readied food packages for 60 West Coast families.
Filled with healthy options for breakfast and lunch, the brown paper grocery bags were destined for homes in Tyhistanis and Esowista, Opitsaht, Hitacu, Ucluelet, Tofino, and Macoah.
“We are trying to get some staples to these families, things like milk, cheese and bread, fresh fruit and eggs,” said lunch program co-ordinator Suzanne Ryles. “Hopefully our children that have to stay home are getting the nourishment that helps them do their homework.”
Ucluelet Secondary School principal Carol Sedgwick said the initiative took a little bit of co-ordination between all three schools, but they were able to use the lump sum of all the lunch program SD70 funds, so they can offer the groceries up for free and they have lots of money to make it a weekly service.
“We’ll keep it going as long as school is suspended,” said Sedgwick.
Ryles, who owns Caledonia Catering, said they are working closely with the Tofino and Ucluelet Co-ops as well as the local Sysco rep to help with the food orders.
“They are being delivered by boat, train, planes, basically anyway we need to get them across the bay,” she said with a laugh, adding that since the initiative was launched two weeks ago they have had to deal with a broken down supply truck, a Kennedy Hill road closure, and a broken down boat.
Sedgwick notes that the groceries delivered to First Nations neighbourhoods are distributed by a staff member at the secondary school who lives within the community or are passed off to a volunteer waiting at the gateway.
“The schools contacted the families who normally use the school lunch programs. Some families said, ‘We’re okay, please use that money for other families,’ and other families said ‘Yes, that would be super helpful.’ We also gave the option to families who declined that if their situation changes, we are happy to help them out,” said Sedgwick.
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