Coordinated effort to deliver School Lunch Association donation of $300,000 worth of food to youth and vulnerable populations
On March 16, 2020, the provincial government announced that schools across Newfoundland and Labrador were closing in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Families were concerned about childcare arrangements and a new model of at-home learning, and many families faced new challenges of how, under this new arrangement, they would access healthy food for their children.
Under normal operations, the School Lunch Association (SLA) serves approximately 6,300 meals each day to students through 36 schools in Eastern Newfoundland. As a registered charity, the SLA’s mission is to operate a non-stigmatizing program that offers a hot, nutritious lunch for school children, regardless of families’ financial situation. With the closing of schools, the School Lunch Association understood the pressing need to get this food out of schools and into the hands of children, youth and vulnerable populations as soon as possible.
Soon after the government’s announcement of provincial school closures, the SLA reached out to partners who could help with this important project. In an initial meeting between the St. John’s Farmers’ Market, Food First NL and Choices for Youth, it was determined what would be needed to get this food out of the schools and to a centralized distribution centre: refrigerated trailers, freezers, and a whole lot of people power! That’s when the community stepped in. Household Movers and Shippers Ltd. offered up their staff and vehicles for transporting the goods, while Akita Equipment offered up the use of their refrigerated trailers. The RNC cadets volunteered their time to move this food over the span of four days from dozens of schools, into trucks, and to the St. John’s Farmers’ Market where they unloaded it. “Seeing the community come together in this way was nothing short of incredible,” says John Finn, Executive Director of the School Lunch Association. “This initiative wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of the government, our donors, and parents who make this possible every day, along with the generosity of the businesses, agencies, and the RNC. The result is that we were able to move $300,000 worth of food in just four days”.
The food donated by the SLA is being housed at the St. John’s Community Market (the facility managed by the St. John’s Farmers’ Market Cooperative) and will be made available for community agencies who produce and distribute food to children, youth or vulnerable populations. “The St. John’s Farmers’ Market is honoured to be part of such a worthwhile project,” said Pamela Anstey, Executive Director of the St. John’s Farmers’ Market Cooperative. “The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated just how pervasive food insecurity is within this province. Through this distribution hub, we will be able to get a tremendous amount of commercial-sized dry-goods and frozen products to food-serving community organizations, leading to thousands of meals for the most vulnerable of our region.”
CFY is proud to support this initiative. From helping to secure funding for this work, to engaging with local businesses and the RNC to help with transportation - we're grateful to be part of such an incredible community. For organizations like Choices for Youth, who have seen a significant increase in the demand for meals during the past few weeks, this donation will make a big difference in meeting the increased needs of youth. “Choices for Youth is working hard to meet the needs of youth during this challenging time”, said Angela Picco, Fund Development and Communications Coordinator. “That includes providing meal support for young people throughout our community who are facing higher levels of food insecurity. A donation like this makes a big difference in how quickly we can get meals into the hands of those who are struggling to meet their basic needs during this unprecedented time”.
Agencies who are interested in availing of this food can select what they need from an inventory list on the Community Food Distribution application form. The St. John’s Farmers’ Market will process requests and prepare the food so that it’s ready for contactless pick-up at an agreed-upon time.
To learn more about the type of supports and services that Choices for Youth is providing youth during this time, please visit https://www.choicesforyouth.ca/blog for the latest updates.