Coronavirus: Penticton school hamper program sees spike in demand as pandemic continues

Click to play video: 'Spike in demand for school food hamper program'
Spike in demand for school food hamper program
Spike in demand for school food hamper program – Apr 20, 2020

In classroom instruction may be suspended, but Penticton Secondary School and Princess Margaret Secondary are hubs of activity.

Staff are busy packing food hampers to meet the nutritional needs of 160 families in Penticton.

The Okanagan Skaha school district is expanding its Starfish and Penny Lane backpack programs as more students struggle with food insecurity due to the economic uncertainty caused by COVID-19.

Previously, around 100 families were signed up to receive some form of support.

“There are a lot of families struggling right now in our community and especially a lot of families whose parents are laid off, not working right now, and we realized that we are having to reach out to a lot more families than what we have in the past,” said Shaune Gowe, district principal of student support services.

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The hampers, containing basic food staples and baked goods made in school kitchens, are being distributed weekly.

“The need was significant and we have seen a steady increase over the last couple of weeks of requests to be included in this project,” said Sandra Richardson, vice-principal at Pen High.

The service is being supported by community donations.

“The community response, in typical Penticton fashion, has been absolutely amazing,” Richardson said.

“We’ve had tremendous donations of food resources, we’ve had a significant contribution of financial resources.”

Organizers vow that no student will go hungry during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

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“It’s really important that we reach the kids every week, and we will do this as long as we need to do this,” Richardson said.

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For those wishing to donate to the food hamper program by e-transfer, please send your donation to:

If you are sending an e-transfer for $50 or more and would like a Charitable Donation Receipt, you can email separately with the name and address you would like used on the receipt. You’re asked to include the amount and date of your e-transfer in this email.

Non-perishable food items for hampers can also be dropped off at Penticton Secondary School.

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A collection bin is located at the front entrance of the school and will be available 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday to Friday.

While collection is occurring at Penticton Secondary, the support is being provided district-wide.

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