Breakfast program to continue feeding children despite school closures
Kits with fresh fruit and healthy snacks to be handed out at food banks
The Ottawa School Breakfast Program isn't letting the school closures due to COVID-19 prevent it from getting morning meals to children in need.
"We know these students are still hungry and in greater need than ever before," said Heather Norris, president of Ottawa Network for Education, the organization overseeing the program.
Starting Tuesday, the program will begin delivering breakfast kits — boxes full of yogurt, fruit, granola bars and milk — to community food banks and housing associations.
Families will be able to pick up a week's worth of breakfast items at one time.
The program, which has been running in Ottawa for 29 years, offers free hot breakfasts and healthy items to 13,500 children in 190 schools.
"Students and their families have come to rely on this program and rely on this meal as part of their family support," said Carolyn Hunter, president of the Ottawa School Breakfast Program.
"When the schools lost access to the students and families we serve, we immediately came together to troubleshoot a way of getting the food to them."
Program to be expanded
Hunter said school principals have been overwhelmed recently with calls from families stressed by lost wages and poor access to healthy food.
Food banks were chosen as the point of distribution, so that the most vulnerable families would have first access, but the program will be expanded in the coming days.
The $2-million breakfast program is funded by the Ontario government, the City of Ottawa and local fundraising.
The boxes will contain familiar breakfast food items so that students will feel a sense of continuity, even at this anxious time.
"It's the same nutritious food that a student would receive at their school breakfast program," Hunter said.
Included in every box is also a letter from school officials to families offering comfort and encouragement through these challenging times.
"A reminder we're trying to find you in a different way," Hunter said. " We haven't forgotten you."