Demand for Sault student lunch program spikes
St. Vincent Place in Sault Ste. Marie is again offering its 'Lunches for Learning' program, with the aim of helping parents provide children with lunches when they return to school.
The program began last year, and St. Vincent Place's fundraising coordinator said interest has increased considerably.
"Last year, we generally helped about 35 families per week with the program," said Sara McCleary. "This year, we've actually already had more than 100 families reach out, wanting to register. It's been absolutely outrageous the number of families who are in need of help this year."
Last year, parents signed up to receive a package of typical school lunch items, including fresh produce, bread, cheese and juice boxes, and it was picked up on a weekly basis. However, McCleary said that may change this year.
"It's definitely going to be tight," she said. "We are going to have to reduce the size of the packages to meet the demand. And then also what we're going to do instead of providing weekly packages, we'll divide up all the families into two groups and everyone will get a package every other week. That way we can help the greatest number of people."
Nat Cicchelli, executive director of St. Vincent Place, said the number of people accessing services is steadily increasing.
"We've been really busy with our food bank and soup kitchen -- those numbers have increased in the last few months and continue to go up," Cicchelli said, adding that they have been able to reopen the thrift store.
McCleary suggested the reason for the spike in demand for Lunches For Learning is job losses or reduction in hours among part-time workers, likely brought on by the pandemic.