Families affected by suspension of meal programs

Community centres and charitable organizations grapple with food shortages as the province adjusts to life in lockdown once again.

Josh Hodder & Dylan Murphy

A display of produce and milk at the School Lunch Association. The Association just donated more than 21,000 cartons of milk to food banks and other charitable initiatives. Josh Hodder/Kicker

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages, many people and organizations are facing difficulties due to the sudden cancellation of school lunch programs, as well as community centre breakfast and supper programs.

Whether by government orders or by the decision of the organizations themselves, many of these programs have been put on pause to keep contact at a minimum. The effects are felt by the members of the community, as well as the organizations that provide the meals.

The Buckmaster’s Circle Community Centre is one of the many organizations affected by the cancellation of such programs. Sarah Osmond, the program coordinator at the centre, says it typically offers a family supper take-out meal once a month. However, due to current public health guidelines, the centre decided that, in the interest of everyone’s safety, the program along with others had to be put on pause for now.

“We did what we could for the community last time we were in this situation,” Osmond said, “and we will do the same this time around.”

The supper program supplied by the community centre is a massive help to the Buckmaster’s Circle neighbourhood, as the resources given out help ease the cost of grocery bills for residents there – many of them on fixed incomes and trying to make it by. One such resident of the community is Tina Hann.

Hann, a mother, is open about how she has used the supper program in the past to feed her household.

“It really helps,” Hann said. “Having to provide a healthy meal daily is a struggle in itself but when you have a few meals here and there, you don’t have to worry about cost, preparation or availability of ingredients for that meal.”

More help on the way

One of the organizations trying to help is the School Lunch Association, a registered charity that operates in 37 schools across eastern and central Newfoundland. It provides hot, nutritious lunches for school children, regardless of a family’s financial situation.

The association announced on Thursday the results of a joint operation conducted with the Newfoundland Eastern School District and School Milk Foundation to donate milk and perishable food items that would have otherwise gone to waste in school buildings that are currently closed.

Four hundred and forty-two crates containing 21,263 lunch-size (250 ml) cartons of milk were distributed to more than 20 food banks and to more than 15 non-profit and community-based organizations. Cartons were also distributed to front-line health care workers at the Mount Pearl COVID-19 testing site.

John Finn, executive director of the School Lunch Association, said in a news release Thursday his organization is grateful to have been in a position to help the community and its own front-line workers.

“We cannot say thanks enough to the staff at the NLESD for their swift action and efforts with the heavy lifting and distribution over the past two weeks,” said Finn.

Demand at food banks is high in these difficult times. Finn says that anyone who wants to donate to food banks can contact the Community Food Sharing Association.

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