Gold River resident Ellena Gjesdal firmly believes that no child should ever have to go to school hungry.
That is why Gjesdal, the youth and child care coordinator of SD84 schools in Gold River, was most happy when she learned that Breakfast Club of Canada and Loaves & Fishes food bank would be partnering with schools in the community to help deliver fresh food to students.
While Loaves & Fishes has sent over 500 pounds of food from Nanaimo, Breakfast Club Canada has granted a fund of $3,600 for fresh food.
On June 18, Gjesdal, along with volunteers will be going house to house delivering food to over 200, K-12 students from Ray Watkins Elementary School and Gold River Elementary and Secondary School.
Food security is very important in smaller, less-accessible places like Gold River where there are no grocery stores. To get groceries people have to travel for over an hour to Campbell River.
Transportation is also a challenge since most families don’t have vehicles.
Under these circumstances, children often eat canned food and rarely have access to fresh food. This motivated Gjesdal to apply for a food grant with Breakfast Club of Canada.
“My concern was to get basics like milk eggs and bread for the children who don’t have access to it,” said Gjesdal
There are also economic hardships that Gold River families have had to battle last year with Western Forest Products’ (WFP) eight-month-long strike and this year with COVID-19.
Gjesdal often saw a lot of children turning up at school without lunch or without eating breakfast.
According to Gjesdal, “Children cannot learn if they are hungry.”
Food security for youths and families is the key to health and education, she said.
The community has also been benefiting from Backpack Buddies, a charity that exists to fill the weekend hunger gap for children in B.C.
After the WFP strike began, they started supplying food bags for children of employees affected by the strike and later expanded to include other families in Gold River who were struggling to make ends meet.
Gjesdal went door to door and delivered food to more than 70 students’ families, twice a week.
This earned her the nickname of ‘food lady’ within the community.
“I would hear people say ‘we love that food lady,’” said Gjesdal and added that these programs have helped combat food poverty among school children in remote communities.