Wabauskang First Nation members make back to school nourishing with SchoolBOX North Lunch Program
It’s back to school this week for kids in the Keewatin Patricia District School Board in Northwest Ontario, and for those who are living in poverty like one in five other Canadian children, the lack of a nutritious lunch is an obstacle to academic success. Almonte’s SchoolBOX is changing that situation for the better and is seeking donations to support its new SchoolBOX North Lunch Program. For only $10 you can equip a student with a new lunch box, or for $50 you can sponsor a week of healthy lunches.
“More than half of First Nation’s kids live under the poverty line according to the recent Upstream Institute study,” said SchoolBOX North Director Sarah Kerr, “And just as we have done in similar situations in Nicaragua, we undertook to fill in this gap with participation from concerned members of Wabauskang First Nation community.”
The SchoolBOX North Lunch Program is a simple concept – a lunch box packed with healthy food for each child and delivered right on the school bus each morning before leaving the Wabauskang First Nation reserve and making the 110-kilometer journey north to high school and 40-kilometer drive to primary school.
Each lunch includes a healthy main course, loads of snacks and drinks for the day. The program is run by Anishinaabe chef Marshall Moore who recently graduated with his Culinary Management diploma from Canadore College in partnership with the Seven Generations Education Institute in Kenora. He has a passion for food and a gift to share it.
“I want to make lunch healthy and fun for every child,” said Moore. “I want them to know that they are loved with this meal and help encourage them to believe that they can do whatever they set their mind to,” added the step-dad of three children.
SchoolBOX North – Wabauskang Library
SchoolBOX is a registered charity that has been ‘making education possible’ for kids in Nicaragua for over a decade and has brought that mission ‘home’ to support Indigenous communities close the education gap with SchoolBOX North.
What began with the simple gift of a notebook and pencil in 2006, quickly evolved into building libraries and classrooms in some of the most impoverished communities in the Americas. To date, SchoolBOX has constructed a total of 104 classrooms, created 81 libraries and delivered 623,465 notebooks to kids, many of those classrooms built with the help of First Nations, Métis and Inuit youth from across Canada.
Chef Marshall Moore connected with SchoolBOX through Terri Meekis, now a Wabauskang First Nations Councillor, who went to build a school for kids in Nicaragua with the Indigenous Youth Empowering Students (IYES) Program in 2012. Her heart for kids was evident and she had streams of children running and playing with her each day on her volunteer trip.
The IYES program supports Indigenous youth to research and share their cultures while on SchoolBOX builds, and then reflect on how they could use what they learned in Nicaragua to make a difference in their communities back home in northern Canada. For Terri, that meant helping to eliminate the education gap on her reserve – a small community without a school or library.
After her second trip to Nicaragua in 2017, Terri decided to create the Wabauskang First Nations Library, which was inaugurated by Ontario Library Services – North in 2018. She then helped to develop the Wabauskang Lunch Program.
“This program is so important,” says Meekis, “as we are incorporating the calls to action from the TRC and the O’Brien Institute research to positively impact our children. It’s about more than just a sandwich. Each lunch box symbolizes our mission to feed to the physical and mental wellbeing of our kids”.
Both the library and new lunch program are close to the hearts of Terri and Marshall who grew up facing massive obstacles to education – from intergenerational trauma of family members who were taken away to residential schools to the lack of access to school in their home community. And yet these two amazing leaders have not only overcome all odds to graduate and pursue further education, they have broken the cycle of poverty that was left by colonialism.
These inspiring parents want to make sure every child has the opportunity to go to school and reach their potential. They know first-hand that this starts with a healthy lunch – a simple intervention proven to increase attendance, improve classroom performance and overall mental wellbeing.
You can help
To support the new lunch program, you can visit www.schoolbox.ca/lunch. For only $10 you can equip a student with a new lunch box or for $50 you can sponsor a week of healthy lunches.
The power of SchoolBOX rests in the simple fact that we are united in our love for all children, and in our belief that education is the key to defeating poverty, wherever we find it. This means providing school supplies and books in Nicaragua, where only half of the kids are getting to high school, as well as providing books and healthy lunches to kids on native reserves in Canada where less than half of kids are finishing high school.
The SchoolBOX team is so grateful to the generous support of our diverse community for ‘making education possible’ for tens of thousands of kids, by way of a simple notebook and pencil or a nourishing lunch. Thank you! Gracias! Miigwetch!
Please contact SchoolBOX North Director Sarah Kerr at 647-882-7484 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Wabauskang Councillor Terri Meekis at 807-220-0293 with any questions.