School District 79 works with community partners on food distribution

Ensuring students in need are fed a high priority

Cowichan Valley School District 79 is making sure programs continue that support children and families who rely on school lunch programs while classes are out during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many schools have breakfast and lunch programs that keep students fed. To ensure the crucial work continues, the district has joined the Cowichan Emergency Food Access Task Force, organized by Judy Stafford at the Cowichan Green Community.

The coordinated body prepares, packages and distributes food in the community. The school district is pleased staff can contribute to the goals of the task force in a meaningful way.

“Some of the students who need us to provide additional things besides their regular education needed that to continue during this time period,” said Candace Spilsbury, chair of the Board of Education.

Working primarily with Nourish Cowichan, the Rotary Starfish Backpack program and Shawnigan Lake School, more than three dozen bags of food were distributed to students and families initially. The number jumped to 150 bags of food last week.

“Identification is becoming easier as we go along, as more people have stepped up to help,” Spilsbury indicated.

The district is dedicated to serving as many families as possible and grateful to the community organizations who have provided food to students, families and community members.

Each organization within the Cowichan Emergency Food Access Task Force needs donations to continue to support the community with the identified food needs.

For the month of April, Blue Grouse Estate Winery in Duncan is donating $1 from every bottle of wine sold to the Nourish Cowichan Society. The Brunner family, owners of the winery, are matching every donation dollar for dollar.

Nourish Cowichan was created to feed children in need within the Cowichan Valley school district, at the Cowichan District Hospital maternity clinic and three daycares.

“We believe every child should be given the same opportunities to learn and succeed,” noted Paul Brunner. “We hope to help by supporting Nourish Cowichan, so they can combat hunger with nutritious, locally produced food.”

Meanwhile, Spilsbury pointed out a great deal of work is being done behind the scenes to develop a means of keeping students progressing with their education during this unprecedented time.

“A number of new ways are being explored to see how we can do that,” she said.

“It will be well done. That’s who we are. I’m extremely confident what we will be able to offer our students and our families will be a fairly high quality.”

The timing of the disruption nearer to the end of the school year is far better than at the start for students to complete their requirements before moving on to the next grade.

“It makes a huge difference,” said Spilsbury. “The teachers and support staff already have a relationship built up with the students and the families.”

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