Supporting Families with Food

Even in good times, for many students school meal programs are the difference between being hungry or fed. As the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues, more people are facing food insecurity.

Superintendent Gina Niccoli-Moen:

We recognize that some of our families may be struggling during this challenging time and we are working to make sure food support is available. Should you require assistance, please contact your school Principal.”

With the suspension of in-class instruction, the Burnaby School District began planning how we could adapt and extend our school-based meal program during these extraordinary times.

Read the coverage by CBC News.

Adaption of School-based Meal Program

Principals, teachers, and other staff worked together to identify students in need of immediate help. In addition to those recognized at the school level, our Settlement Workers in Schools also alerted district organizers to families in need.

After sorting out logistics, on April 6 we began distribution of hot nutritious meals to support children who need it. The meals are prepared at Burnaby South Secondary in partnership with Corporate Classics, which normally does the cafeteria food in most of our high schools.

Next the food is driven to schools by our maintenance staff in district vehicles. Then the meals are bagged by school staff on site. People in need pick it up directly at a designated site in shifts, respecting social and physical distancing.

We began at the elementary level with 11 distribution sites for 15 schools – while it ranges day-to-day, approximately 470 meals were distributed per school day. Building on the success, the District expanded the program on April 16 to include secondary students with additional sites at four secondary schools, bringing the total to nearly 600 meals per school day. Read the story in the Burnaby Now: “Burnaby school district feeding more kids during COVID-19 crisis”

Student-led and School Food Drives

Our students are truly the leaders of today and tomorrow, and we are proud of the many student-led and school-based initiatives to support families with food.

At Burnaby South, secondary students in the “We Council” are leading an initiative for families of students in their school who need groceries. Learn more in a video on the students’ Twitter account where they say:

During this time of distress, WE can weather the storm TOGETHER.”


A Grade 12 student from Burnaby North Secondary volunteered to bag groceries at a local store. In exchange for her efforts, Megan was able to raise $300 in gift cards to support vulnerable families with food. She donated the cards to Maywood Community School for them to distribute. Maywood has received donations from local businesses, as well. Added together with Megan’s efforts, the elementary school now has more than $1500 in gift cards to distribute to families who need it.

Another example is at Byrne Creek Community School, which led a “food security drive.” Students, alumni, teachers, other school-based staff and district settlement workers – as well as community partners – worked together and were able to collect an entire room full of boxes overflowing with groceries, as well as gift cards for food. Education Assistants and others helped box up the groceries and make deliveries to families.

Support from Partners

The District and other schools have received additional donations of non-perishables from local businesses, as well as generous individuals.

Throughout the school year Burnaby Firefighters provide generous donations of food to our schools. They offered additional help during these challenging times. School staff identified people who need support, and – after seeking their permission – linked them in with firefighters offering to help fill their cupboards. Now about 500 of our families  – connected to nearly 40 schools – are received care boxes in early May.

Additionally, we have been contacted by others who want to help and we are collaborating to see how we can capitalize on those offers to potentially expand further.

Additional Support for Families in the Community

There are several low-cost and free food programs operating in Burnaby during the COVID-19 pandemic. A list is being maintained by the Burnaby Public Library and can be found here.

Posted April, 2020