The Salvation Army has started a new student feeding program with a $300,000 grant from the Alberta government, through the Ministry of Education in Grande Prairie, Alta. Over 200 students have been identified and registered to date by the four school boards operating in the city, and those families will receive a $100 grocery store gift card per child, per month.
Many unexpected problems arose from the pandemic over the past two months. With schools closing for the rest of the year, some students were at a higher risk for food insecurity. Students who may have relied on school feeding programs for some meals and snacks were left with fewer options. Families affected by lay-offs, reduced hours, and the children of parents working out of the home as essential workers needed help to make sure their children were getting proper meals.
“Even though the school year will end in June, the program will continue until the money is all used,” says Captain Peter Kim, Salvation Army Community Ministries Officer in Grande Prairie in response to this need. “We intend to help as many families as we can.”
The gift card system will also help the local economy recover while ensuring the dignity of food program recipients. Rather than buying food for hampers and distributing them, families can go to the local grocery store to select the food and snacks their children prefer.
“I have three kids of my own, and they definitely don’t like the same things,” says Kim. “This is a way to ensure we’re providing this program with dignity, and that means having a choice to buy what their kids like.”
The Grande Prairie community has been very supportive notes Captain Kim. The Salvation Army runs the only food bank in Grande Prairie, and realizing the implications of a pandemic on their reserves, they began a monetary food drive as COVID-19 took hold.
“We are close to $400,000 raised, and our original goal was $100,000,” says Kim. “Communities, businesses, individuals, community foundations, and the local Rotary club have all donated. People who weren’t able to volunteer for our annual door-to-door food bank drive this year were very generous to this monetary campaign, and we’re so grateful.”
Food insecurity affects one in 10 households in Alberta, and one in eight across Canada – and that was before the pandemic.
The Salvation Army continues to provide essential services across Canada throughout the COVID-19 crisis. To donate, visit SalvationArmy.ca or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY.