School Food Program Pivots to Keep Students Fed During Pandemic 

WEBSize Edited Unloading Truck.jpgChild poverty is a major problem in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith area. 

Crystal Dennison knows that better than most – she is the executive director of the Schools Foundation for Nanaimo-Ladysmith. Their United Way-supported food program provides breakfasts, lunches and snacks to about 650 students during the school year. 

But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Crystal knew there would be even more kids, and their families, in need of help, and that they would rely on the foundation’s program. 

“I panicked,” she said as the full weight of the situation became apparent. “It was scary times – really scary for a lot of families, for everybody, being told you can’t go to school, this is the new world we’re living in now, and what the effects are going to be on those that struggle.” 

But, determined to be there for kids, the foundation drew on the help of its volunteers, the community and United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island to keep feeding students as they continued learning from home. 

The foundation created a food distribution centre and made hampers for pickup at schools throughout the district. Families of student in need could access one of these hampers a week, and the program continued over the summer. 

At its peak, 997 families were receiving weekly hampers. No kids in need were turned away. 

United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island has directed tens of thousands of dollars towards this program, and much more to food programs elsewhere on the Island, including in your community. 

 UWCNVI directed funds to this Nanaimo-Ladysmith-based program through the federal government’s Emergency Community Support Fund. But support from United Way means more than funding – we provide community development, communications and administrative support, research, expertise and real partnership to make these programs as impactful as possible. 

“United Way is incredible,” said Crystal. “Having the support of the United Way, not only with the financial contribution, but with opportunities to share the message of what we’re doing, and to work collectively for a purpose and for long-term sustainability of programming. The United Way understands it takes more than just Band-Aid solutions to address the root issues.” 

That work is thanks to your generosity. 

As kids are back in school programs like this one will need ongoing help to make sure that, even during a pandemic, students have what they need to learn and thrive. 

By donating to United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island, you make sure that effective programs like this one get the support they need when they need it, and that your community is made stronger with Local Love. Please consider giving today.