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Food programs support Surrey students & families over spring break

23BackpackBuddies-WinterCampaign2.jpgWhile some view spring break as a chance to spend more time with friends and family, it can be a period of uncertainty for those who depend on district meal programs.

“We have students that rely on meal programs to get through the day,” said Zahara Rawji, principal at Mary Jane Shannon Elementary. “For them and their families, these breaks in the school year can be hard.”

With around 120 families currently receiving meal support at Mary Jane Shannon, Rawji said schools and community partners are doing what they can to help bridge that support over the break.

One such example is the Backpack Buddies program, which provides participating students with a bag full of groceries each Friday.

“These are delivered to our school each week to help support students and families through the weekend period,” explained Rawji. “For spring break, they put additional food in those bags to help stretch out that support. 

Other assistance is provided through the Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School Campaign, family hampers from the City Dream Centre, the North Surrey Lions Club and funds from the provincial Student and Family Affordability Fund (SFAF). 

Forsyth Road Elementary principal Kam Grewal said her school supports around 30 families each month with grocery store gift cards, which were doubled up for March due to spring break.

“The in-school meal programs mean a lot to our families, so we did what we could to support students while they’re away for these two weeks,” said Grewal.

But while the school has been able to stretch its limited resources to provide additional support over the break, Grewal said they have seen a marked increase in families in need over the past few years.

“We have had to reduce the amount we provide to each family, just to be able to get something out to everyone,” she explained, noting that every stream of assistance is crucial in helping keep students fed.

“We have another partner, Adam’s Apples, and each week, they drop off a few hundred apples,” said Grewal. “Just through that, we’re able to provide fresh fruit to kids during the school day as well as send some home, so it all makes a difference.”

For Rawji at Mary Jane Shannon, it’s seeing those differences in action that keeps her passionate about helping families. She recalls a brother and sister receiving a Backpack Buddies package and immediately opening it.

“The brother took out a granola bar, opened it up and the first thing he did was split it in half to give to his sister,” recalled Rawji. “His first thought was to make sure his sister got something to eat and it’s those simple joys that these programs help provide to families.

“If we can eliminate that concern, then we can allow the kids focus on the most important thing, which is to get a good education and just be kids.”

Surrey Schools would like to all of its community partners for helping to keep kids fed over spring break and beyond! And thank you to our school-based staff who work so hard to create a supportive and caring learning environment where every student has the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential.

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