‘We’ve got a wait list’: School food program facing unprecedented demand

'We've got a wait list': School food program facing unprecedented demand

A backpack is a kid’s burden to bear to and from school.

As to how to fill it, that’s a parent’s burden every day, and a province-wide program is helping fill the hunger gap one backpack at a time. Backpack Buddies is a program that realizes food security isn’t solved when the bell rings on Friday afternoon.

“We do that by filling backpacks with food to take home on Friday afternoons so they can have food on Saturdays and Sundays,” says executive director Emily-Anne King.

The warehouse services schools on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, and King says they’re facing unprecedented need.

“For the first time ever we’ve got a wait list,” she says.

Of the 22 schools currently looking to be included in the program in BC, half of them are on Vancouver Island.

“We have a couple of schools that are waitlisted,” says Sooke School District superintendent Scott Stinson.

King points to fewer resources available to Vancouver Island schools as compared to the Lower Mainland as one of the main reasons for the disproportionate number.

Sarah Roberts lives in Gibsons and says the Backpack Buddies program is essential in meeting her family’s food budget. “It’s one less thing to have to be struggling with every day,” she says.

King says more two-income families are taking part in the program than ever before, as we see the price of staple foods like apples skyrocket. “They’re up 60 per cent more compared to this time last year,” she says.

Backpack Buddies is seeking donations to help address the shortage, and King says cash donations are preferred so they can maximize their purchases with suppliers.

With the season of giving upon us, King is asking for donations from anyone who’s able.

“We were pulling our vans into an elementary school,” she says. “A little boy said when he sees the van pull in on Friday it feels like Christmas knowing he’s taking food home.”

To donate, visit this website.

Jordan CunninghamJordan Cunningham

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