The Salvation Army in Smithers launched their new school lunch and backpack program last week.
“Since Monday, we’ve been running our lunch program where we provide lunches based on the food guides — both the Canadian and Aboriginal food guides — for the schools just to hand out when they notice that a child has come to school without a lunch. And the other program that we’re launching is our new backpack program. We’re going to be supplying children with backpacks for schools for children who are in need,” said Bulkley Valley Ministries director Tim Sharp.
The program is for elementary school students. It provides lunches for students during the week and the backpack program is for students to receive a backpack filled with food for them and their families over the weekend.
“Other communities have run it [the backpack program] and they’ve seen some very positive trends as a result of this. One of the trends that they’ve seen is [attendance] on Friday’s because children have to be there to pick it up; and it’s not just for them, it’s for their family. They’ve actually seen attendance increase on Fridays and because they’ve eaten over the weekend properly, they’re actually able to focus in class and their behavioural changes have improved and as a result grades have gone up,” Sharp stated.
He added the program wouldn’t have been possible without the support of one of their major donors, the Lakewood Foundation.
“Without them and support like that, we wouldn’t be able to offer such programs,” he said.
Currently the program includes the two public elementary schools in Smithers with 20 backpacks per school. The Salvation Army hopes to expand it to reach more schools and communities with help from funding.