Grande Prairie Salvation Army Creates New Program to Offset Student Food Insecurity

Captain Peter Kim accepting a donation for the new student feeding program in Grande Prairie
by Alberta

So much has changed over the past two months.

With something as serious as a pandemic, many unexpected problems arise. With schools closing for the rest of the year, some students are more at risk for food insecurity, but The Salvation Army’s Community & Family Services in Grande Prairie has been able to step in and help.

Students experiencing food insecurity before the pandemic may have relied on school feeding programs for some meals and snacks, but with school closed they are left with fewer options. Also, some families who were ok before are now affected by lay-offs, reduced hours, and some children have both parents working out of the home as essentials workers. Some of these families may also need a little help making sure their kids are getting proper meals.

In response to this need, The Salvation Army in Grande Prairie has started a new student feeding program with a $300,000 grant from the Province of Alberta, through the Ministry of Education. Over 200 students have been identified and registered to date by the four school boards operating in Grande Prairie, and those families will receive a $100 grocery store gift card per child, per month.

“Even though the school year will end in June, the program will continue until the money is all used,” says Captain Peter Kim, Salvation Army Community Ministries Officer in Grande Prairie. “We intend to help as many families as we can.”

The gift card system will also help the local economy recover while ensuring the dignity of food program recipients. Rather than buying food for hampers and distributing them, families can go to the local grocery store to select the food and snacks their children like, giving them control of the food they bring home. “I have three kids of my own, and they definitely don’t like the same things,” says Kim. “This is a way to ensure we’re providing this program with dignity, and that means having a choice to buy what their kids like.”

Captain Kim also mentions how supportive the Grande Prairie community has been. The Salvation Army runs the only food bank in Grande Prairie, and realizing the implications of a pandemic on their reserves, they began a monetary food drive as the COVID-19 took hold. “We are close to $400,000 raised, and our original goal was $100,000,” says Kim. “Communities, businesses, individuals, community foundations, and the local Rotary club have all donated. People weren’t able to volunteer for our annual door-to-door food bank drive this year and were very generous to this monetary campaign, and we’re so grateful.”

Food insecurity affects 1 in 10 households in Alberta, and 1 in 8 across Canada – and that was before the pandemic. Thank you to everyone who has donated to this food drive in Grande Prairie, or to your own local food bank to help those out who are struggling to put food on their tables.

Together we will conquer COVID-19.