It is no secret how hard the beginning of this new year has been for everyone. Exhaustion has once again crept into our work spaces and personal lives due to Covid. Schools were shut down at the beginning of 2022 and children and youth were required to adapt and start the year with online learning. Parents headed back to work and now had to juggle their workloads and their kids. Motivation was at an all time low. And when life started to open up again for most of Canada in mid- January, that was not the case for many First Nations Reservations.
Terri shopping for Lunch Program groceries back in the fall with her daughter!
Ramona Meekis and Terri Meekis are members of Wabauskang First Nation, in Treaty 3, Northern Ontario and are SchoolBOX’s Lunch Program coordinators. Ramona and Terri have adapted time and time again as changes in government restrictions and community regulations continue. They watched as the rest of Canada sent their kids back to school for in-person learning back in January, while their community’s children stayed home indefinitely. And while Terri and Ramona ensure all safety measures are taken, it has presented unique challenges. “It takes a lot of coordination to make sure all the food is delivered in a timely manner, at the same time making sure proper safety measures are put in place,” says Ramona. The community of Wabauskang has a population of 349 and they are mindful of what an outbreak of the Covid-19 virus could do to them. Taking extra precautions and care when handling and delivering the food is essential, but also, an added stress.
Groceries for Lunch deliveries to each home during lockdowns in January 2022.
“It’s an exhausting time to be a parent of five kids”, says Terri, whose children are at home learning indefinitely as their community continues to lockdown. Meekis is Co-founder of SchoolBOX North and works alongside Ramona in the processing and delivering the lunches to kids. “Having one in high school and two in middle school at home virtually learning and two under the age of three is a lot of work, there’s not much time to do anything else but parent right now,” shares Terri. And yet, even amidst her responsibilities as a parent, she makes time for the Lunch Program. Meekis is often the one to make the drive off-reserve to obtain affordable groceries for the program. Wabauskang is a forty minute drive north of Vermillion Bay, a small town in northern Ontario that sits on the trans Canada highway. “It takes a team to keep this Lunch Program running, and I am so thankful for the people supporting SchoolBOX to make sure these kids keep getting their lunches” says Terri, “there’s not a lot being offered to our kids right now, and so we are doing all we can to keep giving them access to healthy food.”
Groceries boxed up and delivered to home’s of Lunch Program participants.
Rhonda, a member of Wabauskang First Nation, is a mother whose children are part of the program and she recently shared with us how enjoyable and convenient the program has been for her family. “Being a mother can get quite hectic at times and this is one less thing to worry about,” she says, “the lunches are always packed with food they enjoy.” The kids in Wabauskang start their days very early, and in the winter months the mornings are dark and cold. Rhonda says the Lunch Program has been a huge help in getting her sons ready and out the door on time and expressed her gratitude, “thank you to everyone involved in the program!”
Parents in Canada know how challenging working from home can be with children learning in the same space. Not only are we seeing incredible amounts of burnout, our children are also suffering from lack of socializing and organized activity. While our children and youth on the reservations continue to suffer during these hard times, they should never have to worry about having a meal. SchoolBOX North’s Lunch Program ensures that they will never have to! Miigwech to Terri and Ramona for all their amazing work to keep our SchoolBOX Lunch Program going!
Anishinabek News covered our Lunch Box story in February and you can read our feature by clicking the link below: