Special deliveries are coming to many students in the community on Aug. 26 as part of the work of the Douglas Park Community School Mobile Food Bank. The event is in conjunction with the Gateway of Hope’s annual School Supply Drive.
Due to the pandemic, what was originally planned as the mobile food bank’s first pickup of food and backpacks with school supplies has changed to a delivery operation.
“With COVID restrictions and the amount of families that access this event it was decided that it would be best if the backpacks were delivered,” said Douglas Park Community School principal Diana Wilk. “The students will receive backpacks with supplies and a free take home box.”
The deliveries will be made next Wednesday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. All the items have been donated and volunteers are assembling the packs for the families in need.
Gateway of Hope, Christian Life Assembly (CLA), Village Church Langley South, and Southgate Church supplied the backpacks, kids gift bags and toiletries. The school supplies were donated.
“The event is organized through City Dream Centre. Southgate Church receives a grant from Langley City to help towards this event. They are planning on handing out 700 backpacks and gift bags.”
Families are required to register to receive the backpacks (contact Andrea at Gateway of Hope at 604-514-7375 or email firstname.lastname@example.org). The school supply drive distribution is open to all those families with children in Langley City schools. The distribution was originally scheduled as a pickup on Tuesday, Aug. 25 but is now modified to a delivery program on Wednesday, Aug. 26.
But the Aug. 26 event is not the only initiative of the community school mobile food bank which has been handing out help since early July. The mobile food bank is open to all Langley City schools. A few families in need but without children have also been helped.
From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, families in need have been able to stop by the school to shop for themselves. Delivery has been arranged for any that can’t get out. They are also sent home with pre-made lunches and another 25 to 30 lunches are delivered.
“On average we have given out 130 to 160 Grab & Go premade lunches, and we have around 50- 60 families shopping for food,” she said.
The help has been appreciated by the recipients.
“The impact of this program has gone far beyond anything we expected,” Wilk noted. “Families are so appreciative and grateful, and our relationships and trust have improved significantly within the community. We aren’t just providing food, but toilet paper, diapers, hygiene products and pet food. We have perishable and non-perishable food, we also get donations of clothes, toys, books and activities for the children. This is a safe place where they can connect and reach out to familiar faces.”
Organizers are very careful about how the mobile food bank is set up regarding coronavirus safety and it’s helping staff at the school plan for when students return en masse.
“We have been very careful and diligent in ensuring that the pick-up process is safe for everyone. We have food set up in the gym, and only allow six people in at a time,” she noted.
Only adults are allowed in for pick ups, and physical distancing is expected. Two to three staff are available to assist and monitor, and they wear masks during the pick-up.
“We have separate entrance and exit doors to minimize traffic and the possibility of larger groups. I also feel that this program will help to make the transition back to school in September a little smoother and comfortable for students and parents.”
COVID has brought hunger in the community into sharper focus, but it was a concern for the school before the pandemic.
“Our community is in the inner city, and there are lots of needs,” said Wilk. “During a regular school year we feed about 80 kids breakfast each day and provide lunch for about 40 kids. These programs are on hold because of the pandemic. As in many communities around the province, many of our families are out of work and are supporting extended family members which makes it hard for them to keep up. The food bank helps to alleviate the gap.”
The food comes from a variety of sources, including a successful food drive Aug. 10.
“We did not think we would get the donations that we did,” Wilk said. “It was amazing to see people come together for this important cause.”
The school has made connections with a variety of groups that help provide both food and non-food items that families can use.
“Our food bank is stocked by Sources Food Bank and other community donations,” the principal said. “We also have regular donations of milk, eggs and cheese from The Youth Leadership Society of BC. We also get 50 pre-cooked frozen meals every week to hand out from Christian Life Assembly Langley (CLA), Southgate Church & Village Church South Langley. We have also had 41 food hampers given out and another 41 coming for next week – from City Dream Centre, Village Church Langley South and Christian Life Assemble Langley (CLA).”
Langley Environmental Partners Society (LEPS) donated Harvest Bags and will be donating another batch again. Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Langley and One Hope Church of Langley also donated 180 activity bags, AKA “Boredom bags”, she added.
Once school resumes in September, Douglas Park elementary will be helping hungry students.
“We are working on a plan for when school starts,” Wilk explained. “We will definitely be providing some type of breakfast program – this will have to be adapted to ensure physical distancing – and resuming our lunch program during the school day. The goal of the mobile food bank is to connect parents with local community resources like the Sources Food Bank so they can access them going forward.”
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