It was one year ago that Fatima Da Silva learned about hungry school children in her Cowichan Valley community.
“Teachers have been spending money out of their own pockets to bring bread and fruit, but it shouldn’t be a teacher’s job.” says Da Silva.
“Their job is to teach. It should be our job as a community to provide for those children.”
Da Silva, manager of the kitchen at Vigneti Zanatta Estate Winery, offered the kitchen, and volunteers stepped up to donate food and cash, and to create meals and then to deliver them to schools. And so, Nourish Cowichan was born.
“It’s bringing people together that I never thought would be working together,” says Da Silva. “From small business producers, farmers, people calling us to go to their backyards and little farms and pick up whatever is left…zucchinis, anything.”
Martha Robinson signed up as a volunteer as soon as she heard about Nourish Cowichan.
“I’m a cook already and so it just seemed like a natural. You know, I’ve got grown kids, and I’ve been aware of what it’s like in the schools for kids who don’t have as much as they should. They really need the nutrition to be able to absorb the education.”
Anita Carroll places nursing students studying at Vancouver Island University into Cowichan Valley schools to learn about community nursing.
“So they were seeing, first hand, children in the schools what the health conditions might be, what their living conditions might be like,” says Carroll, “You’d see some children having a hard time sitting in their seats and paying attention, and you’d know, looking at some of the kids, that they were hungry.”
Carroll has seen a huge difference in the students since the program started, and she believes others are noticing too. “The teachers are seeing it. It’s taking that little bit of a load off them…making sure their students have extra nutrition in their bellies.”
And while it began just one year ago, the program has exploded as the community became aware of the great need. “We started out thinking we were going to be doing about 40 kids,” says Da Silva.
“And we’re doing over 900 meals a week now.”
Da Silva feels deeply grateful that the conversation began a year ago.
“Poverty brings a lot of shame in people. They don’t want to talk about it. It’s something that you don’t tell your family, you don’t tell your neighbours, you just keep to yourself.
“We’re not putting that little monster back in the closet. It’s out, it’s in the front, and we’re going to talk about it. And we’re going to find a solution, because actually, the solution’s very simple. Feed the children. Give them equal opportunity to succeed in school. That is the only way we’re going to break that cycle of poverty.”
If you’d like to support Nourish Cowichan, click here.