YK Cares group prepares weekend food kits for schoolchildren
Yellowknife charity hands out easy-to-prepare meals to last kids till Monday
Angela Canning and Steve Payne's philosophy is simple: give a child access to healthy food and he or she will grow strong in mind and body.
It's why the two, along with their spouses, started YK Cares, a charity that helps feed children outside of school hours in Yellowknife.
During the school year, every Thursday the group drops off 40 "weekend kits" to two different elementary schools.
"We put two breakfasts, two lunches, two suppers and we put about four snacks in there," Canning said. "On top of essentials, we give them extra treats like popcorn, hot chocolate and a packet of juice."
On Friday, children can go to their guidance counsellors discreetly and pick up a kit. Each package has easy to prepare food items — enough to last the child until Monday.
The idea came to the friends over Christmas dinner. Canning was already doing something similar, handing out backpacks with "survival items" for the homeless in the city. Payne, who works in a school himself, mentioned to his friend how he wished there was a program like that to help children beyond school hours.
A month later they made it happen. They've been working out of Payne's garage since February.
"Adults can take care of themselves and even teens can manage. But children can't. They need our support," Payne said.
Food in the kits is similar to what a child would receive during the school meal programs. One kit usually costs about $15.
"As we went on we became pretty thrifty shoppers," Payne said.
"I am not afraid to go and buy a whole cart full of Chef Boyardee to save 25 cents a can. That money we save means we can put out more kits in the end."
Support for the program is growing, with donations from individuals and businesses.
Yellowknifers quick to offer help
Yellowknife's Co-op gave $10,000 in donations — accounting for more than half the group's intake so far this year — and YK Cares has now partnered with Food Rescue so anyone who donates can receive a tax receipt.
Another contributor is Amy Wood of Woody's Tattoo. Last month she held a four-day event where 100 per cent of the proceeds were donated to YK Cares.
"I did select tattoos. People came in and picked what they liked," Wood said. "There were about 20 to choose from. Some people that did donate didn't even receive a tattoo, they just came and donated money."
She raised more than $1,000.
"I just really wanted to be a part of it," she said. "I think what they are doing for the kids is amazing."
Canning says she appreciates Yellowknifers' willingness to help.
"It makes me emotional sometimes to know that I live in such a wonderful community where people will pitch in," she said. "It's very touching and heartwarming."