‘Our kids need help’: Arts on the Ave feeds stomachs and souls during COVID-19 pandemic

Arts on the Ave feeds stomach and soul during COVID-19 pandemic
WATCH ABOVE: Many central Edmonton schools had breakfast programs, but the COVID-19 pandemic forcing kids to stay home means students no longer receive that meal. Community Reporter Morgan Black has more on a project aimed at filling not just the stomach, the the soul as well.

Arts on the Ave is working to build community through art, while also providing essential supplies to families in the area while Edmonton continues to deal with the novel coronavirus pandemic.

It Takes a Village” is an initiative that addresses the needs of the Alberta Avenue community.

“Our kids need our help,” Arts on the Ave’s Christy Morin said. “We knew we could help bring the bare necessities to these families. We’ve dug really deep trying to gather resources and money.”

To help spread the word, chalk artists will be busy for the next few months on different sidewalks on the avenue. Messages will be included with the art, explaining how to help with the initiative.

Chalk art on Alberta Avenue in April 2020
Chalk art on Alberta Avenue in April 2020. Courtesy: Christy Morin
“When kids are walking by, they’ll see [the art] on the ground and it will lift their spirits. It will let them know we are all in this together. They will know someone was there and someone brought beauty,” said Morin.
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Food is one of the top priorities for the non-profit. Many schools in the area had breakfast programs available for students, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced kids to transition to learning at home.

READ MORE: Edmonton school asks for tech, food donations during COVID-19 pandemic

“That has proven to be a really difficult time for so many families that normally get food from the food bank. Now, they need it so much more,” said Morin.

READ MORE: Alberta non-profits receive $3M to continue nutrition program amid COVID-19 school closures

Roots and Wings employee Mehret Gebrekidane, who works with Spruce Avenue Junior High, estimated that about 80% of families from the school are receiving program support.

“The main challenges right now are food security and mental health support,” Gebrekidane said.

“We’ve had clients crying, saying that without our support they don’t know what would happen to them.”

READ MORE: Dr. Hinshaw asks people to show #AlbertaCares during COVID-19 pandemic

“We are so thankful and so grateful for the Edmontonians that came together and made it happen,” Morin said.

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The province also recently announced $3 million in funding support for food assistance to vulnerable students, through nine community organizations which includes Edmonton’s Food Bank.

“Edmonton’s Food Bank is open and ready to self-refer,” manager of strategic relationships & partnerships Tamisan Bencz-Knight said. “We’re ready to serve Edmonton’s families.”

If you’re in need of support, you can contact the food bank directly at 780-425-4190.