The Saskatoon Public Schools Foundation (SPSF) “cheer crate” campaign is back to deliver families in need with extra support during the winter break.
Cheer crates include donated food items as well as books, hygiene items and games.
“In March of 2020, we knew … families, so many of them through Saskatoon Public Schools, needed extra supports, food, hygiene and games. They were locked in their homes and so we wanted to respond,” SPSF executive director Zeba Ahmad said.
“We knew when schools closed that kids didn’t have access to food or activities and so then we decided to keep going because the need was there. As long as we have support, we’ll keep doing it.”
Officials said community school coordinators and staff helped identify families that would benefit from the support. More than 40 schools have requested cheer crates including high schools.
“We know there’s a need and the need is growing … We started with 500 cheer crates (in 2020),” Ahmad said.
“And we’re delivering over 750 cheer crates (Wednesday). … There’s a need we’ve seen through the pandemic that there are kids and families all over Saskatoon who are needing some extra support through the holidays.
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“We had a request for over 850 cheer crates this time. So the need is out there. The community has responded though.”
According to Food Banks Canada, since the start of the pandemic, food bank visits have increased by over 20 per cent nationally, which rivals the 2008 recession when it comes to food insecurity. It added, in Saskatchewan, children alone made up 39.8 per cent of local food bank visits.
Roughly 60 volunteers were part of the packing and delivery process, along with teachers and staff who delivered cheer crates to their students/families.
Ahmad said it’s a great community-building experience.
“Our volunteers have showed up every time and they say this just makes them feel so good,” Ahmad said.
“Teachers and staff of the schools volunteer their time to … pick up all of these packages for the families and they deliver them to their families, so they do that on their volunteer time.
“It’s a great initiative. We’re so fortunate for the support that we get from the community and all our donors, and we’ll continue to keep doing this as we get donations.”
Officials estimate the value of cheer crates to be roughly $100 each and said over 3,000 have delivered last year and June 2021.