The Covid-19 pandemic has closed schools, but the breakfast, lunch and snack programs provided for students from low-income families are continuing in a different form.
Yellowknife School District No. 1 (Yk1) and Yellowknife Catholic Schools (YCS) have introduced a gift card system that families can access for their food needs.
Cards for families of Yk1 students are available at the two Independent supermarkets and at the YK Co-op, according to Tram Do, director of corporate services with Yk1.
“The gift cards are replacing the food programs that were occurring in schools prior to the closure. We have both Independent and Co-op gift cards available for parents. Principals give the ones that would be the more convenient location for the family to shop at,” Do explained.
Yk1 announced on Wednesday that the local Canadian Tire and Co-op donated $1,000 and $500, respectively, towards the card program.
“We have a limited budget for these cards. We are inviting donations from individuals and businesses that would like to contribute and help this food support initiative for families at this time,” Do said.
Yellowknife Catholic Schools
YCS has also rolled out a gift card program that will be offered through the Independent stores.
Officials with the school board identified families of students at YCS schools who are most in need.
“That’s judged by the frequency of their use of the breakfast, lunch and snack programs and also from information from teachers and staff,” said assistant superintendent Patrick Sullivan.
“We created a list and reached out to the families and asked if they’re in need of support. The cards will be left in their names at (the) customer service (desks) for them to pick up. We’ll try this for a few weeks and see how it works. If it doesn’t, we’ll come up with another plan.”
Sullivan said close to 40 families will be supported through the program, though he declined to comment on the program’s dollar value.
The initiative will continue as long as there is a need. Once schools can reopen their existing food supply will be distributed to families that need it.
YCS’s food outreach isn’t new for the school board. Sullivan explained that just before schools closed in March, Weledeh Catholic School had prepared a big feast.
“They had just finished making their stew, which was frozen, so we donated that to the Day Centre,” he said.
Sullivan added that YCS coordinated the gift card program along with Yk1 and the Commission Scolaire Francophone Territoire du Nord-Ouest. The French board had not responded to an NNSL inquiry by Thursday morning.
Food programs a top priority
The status of Yellowknife schools’ food programs was a concern that parents shared on social media and also voiced by school officials when the boards decided to close educational facilities in late March.
During a teleconference on March 24 when the Yk1 board of trustees voted to shutter schools, chairperson Tina Drew and superintendent Metro Huculak said the food program was a top priority and plans were underway to continue with it.