By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
There’s no question that students going to school on-line are missing certain things like fun with friends, field trips and – in some cases – Student Nutrition Program meals and snacks that really made a difference each day.
A new program is addressing this last item, putting together and delivering student nutrition hampers filled with fresh food and healthy snacks for school-aged children and youth who are registered in virtual learning in Northumberland County.
Nicole Beatty is co-ordinating this program for Local Food For Local Good, which is partnering with Northumberland Food For Thought on the project, with the schools serving as the communications channel for the program.
“Last April, when COVID started to unfold, I learned that when schools closed, it affects kids who rely on school nutrition programs as a source of daily nutritious food,” Beatty recalled in a recent interview.
No food support was being provided for this purpose, she said. And despite the excellent School Nutrition Programs organized by Northumberland Food For Thought, they were not set up for at-home learning.
At the time, Beatty and a number of volunteers started a program with Market & Smor and local restaurants to deliver nutritious food boxes where they were needed.
In the end, they would deliver 1,900 boxes and almost 80 meals. Out of this number, she would estimate 80% involved families with school-aged children. Other recipients included seniors having difficulties connecting with other community services and residents of the shelter Transition House had set up at Cobourg Collegiate Institute.
With the return to at-home learning, Beatty reconnected with Northumberland Food For Thought to start up sort of a mobile school-nutrition program by getting fresh, healthy foods to these kids studying at home.
“This time we have shifted the focus a little bit to healthy food and healthy snacks as a supplement to replace what they’re missing at school,” she said.
“Market & Smor are our fresh-food providers and we have Northumberland Food 4 All Warehouse to source healthy snacks.”
These supplies will be delivered on a weekly basis, with the intention that they can be used to supplement the family food cupboard to make up for what the children might otherwise have missed out on with no access to traditional School Nutrition Programs at this time.
Interviewed at the time registrations were wrapping up, Beatty estimated more than 120 Northumberland families will be receiving the deliveries. They also had registration requests from the families of another 100 children who, though they go to Northumberland schools, live outside of the county. They are working with these families to ensure they can be connected with whatever food networks are in their own communities.
The program is being funded through the Federal government’s emergency relief fund, which is administered by Northumberland United Way.
Beatty said fundraising is also going on in an attempt to keep the program going beyond the end of March, when funding will run out. They raised $10,000 last spring from community sponsors and donors for their earlier effort, she said.
“We are working on a call-out for some fundraising donations, and I am sure the community will rally around us,” she predicted.
“The goal is really to try to make sure those kids who usually rely on the traditional school nutrition program do not run the risk of falling into hunger as as result of making the safe choice to learn the virtual way. We just couldn’t face the empty tummies.”