Providing Food to Local Families in a Time of Need

Posted On Monday June 29, 2020
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The Early Years and Poverty Strategy team, Facilities Services team, and Student Nutrition Ontario Central East teamed up to donate approximately 3,400 items of food to Durham Region families.

DDSB and Student Nutrition Ontario Central East donate approximately 3,400 food items to Durham families, and Sinclair SS collects 2,978 lbs of food for Feed the Need

“As the Province of Ontario continues to take precautionary measures to keep us all safe, many of our Durham District School Board (DDSB) students and families were feeling the effects of school closures,” explains Stacey Lepine-Fisher, Senior Manager of Early Years, Poverty Strategy and Partnership Development at the DDSB.

The DDSB regularly receives food supplies for their schools’ breakfast and nutrition programs from Student Nutrition Ontario Central East (SNOCE).

With the recent school closures due to COVID-19, DDSB and SNOCE partnered to ensure families who rely on breakfast and snack programs still receive food supplies.

They accomplished this through two initiatives.

“Our first initiative, in partnership with Durham Child Nutrition Program (DCNP - the local partner of SNOCE) and the ‘Make A Difference – Students in Need’ fundraiser, is a grocery gift card program. Families identified as ‘in need’ are sent a grocery gift card to assist them with their grocery bills. To date we have mailed out over $27,000 in grocery gift cards and we are continuing to provide support as needs are brought to our attention,” says Lepine-Fisher.

The second initiative required a significant amount of teamwork.

“Our second undertaking was the donation of all of our bulk order breakfast and snack food items to local food banks,” describes Lepine-Fisher.

With the help of DDSB’s Facilities Services team and school staff, food items were collected from 31 DDSB schools and the Re-Source Depot (located inside Village Union PS). Upon collection, the items were sorted and dropped off at local food banks including St. Paul’s Community Food Bank, The Nourish and Develop Foundation, and many others.

Approximately 3,400 items were collected and donated. This number includes roughly 1,842 snacks, 719 fruits and vegetables, 699 bread/grains/pasta, 80 drinks and juice boxes, 29 condiments, 11 dairy products, and 11 canned goods.

“We’re so grateful to our student nutrition program funders, The Ministry of Children Community and Social Services, Breakfast Clubs of Canada, The Grocery Foundation and Durham Region Social Services for their flexibility and generosity in allowing us to direct the funds normally used in schools, into our communities instead. Together with our school board partners, we are working to ensure that students who would normally participate in nutrition programs at school are able to access safe and healthy food during the school closures,” expresses Nicola Lyle, Regional Manager of SNOCE and Peterborough Child & Family Centres.

Lepine-Fisher adds, “The breakfast and snack items are nutritious and necessary for the growth, development and well-being of our students and their families. We recognize that this is a very small gesture, however we know it will make a difference to those who currently need it.”

Sinclair SS Drive-Thru Food Drive

In May, Sinclair Secondary School in Whitby hosted a drive-thru food drive in the school parking lot with all donations going to Feed the Need in Durham.

While maintaining physical distancing measures, staff and students collected non-perishable donations via a drive-thru ‘no touch’ system. As members of the community pulled into the parking lot, a bucket was used to transfer donations from the vehicle to the collection bins.

Adam Grenon, Head of the Arts Department at the school, explains where the idea came from, “After the teachers made a video for the students and they returned the favour by making a ‘thank you’ video, we decided to work together. It was time to reach beyond the walls of our building and engage the greater Sinclair SS community.”

The event was promoted to the community through social media and posters were hung up in local neighbourhoods.

In total, they collected 2,978 lbs of food, which according to Robyn McKibbon, the Community Engagement Coordinator at Feed the Need in Durham, roughly translates to 2,480 meals. “It was five pickup trucks full! We couldn't be happier. The students and staff did an awesome job of keeping things moving, organized and safe” says Grenon.

He notes the importance of giving back in a time of social and physical distancing, “It’s important to support and share our energy with a group such as Feed the Need, as they do such incredible work within the Durham Region community, while supporting some of our Sinclair families directly.”

Grenon adds, “We believe that one of the ways you can stay mentally healthy and positive during this tough time is to work together to do good for someone else, whether that's sharing your artistic talents, your time, your energy, or making someone smile.”