It’s back-to-school week and the busyness is also picking up at Soup’s On, Steinbach’s Soup Kitchen.
Joy Neufeld says, “we're certainly getting ready for back to school. There is a fair bit of organizing and shopping and work for us, but we're excited about it, and we are well on our way.”
SOMETHING NEW AT SOUP'S ON!
Neufeld says that for the third year in a row, Soup’s On has been able to help about 14 families all summer long. “We all know that poverty doesn't end just because we turned the calendar page to July.” And they have created a new meal program for families as a result of their conversations during those mealtimes.
Neufeld explains how Soup’s On is continuing to help these families once school begins. “Well, about two years ago, one mom with a teenager brought to our attention, how embarrassing it was for her daughter to get a soup kitchen lunch. “While we try very hard to make it look like any other lunch, but there’s always the possibility that a child is going to be identified as someone who receives a soup kitchen lunch. So, this mom asked us if there was any other way we could support them? And so, during the school year we started a Family Lunch Program.”
Neufeld explains that this program is separate from their regular school lunch programs and that this are still supporting kids at school who need the bag lunches. “But now for families in the Family Lunch Program, they will pick up their lunch supplies for a week on a Tuesday night. And then they are able to go home and make their lunch with their children. And so, the student, like most other students, can pull a lunch out of their backpack and won’t be identified by someone within the school. It's just turned out to be a very neat program.”
Neufeld says this is now the third year they are offering this to their Soup’s On families and it’s work out well. She says the family still needs to commit to picking up the supplies once a week which she says is going well. “These parents are dedicated to the program. They pick up their supplies. And I've been hearing some really positive results because now any student can have a lunch in their own backpack.”
Neufeld says, if you are a family or you know of a family that would benefit from the Family Lunch Program, please contact the school or your child’s teacher and they will get in touch with Soup’s On. She says, sometimes for a variety of reasons it may be best if the child needing a school lunch continues with the regular program. Neufeld says, getting everything organized involved great communication between the teachers, parents and the Soup’s On staff.
To which she says, “ And I will shout this from the rooftops Hanover School Division teachers are nothing short of amazing. The extra work they put in to make all this happen is amazing. Hats off to them. They're incredible.”
Neufeld continues with the accolades, “I tell my Hanover School Division Representatives or the individual staff at the schools that I work with, that I feel we have the easy part.” She explains, “We get all these supplies together. Of course, we buy the groceries. We put the lunches together and they, the teachers, get they get deliver them to the kids.” Neufeld believes that that is the hard part. Although she says, working with individuals with a common goal, feeding children living in poverty or living with food insecurities makes it all worthwhile.
SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM NOW IN IT'S 19th YEAR
Neufeld says the school lunch program has become quite the “well-oiled machine” over the years. She briefly explains the process.
First, they find out from the school what they will need for the following week. “Whether it's an apple, orange, banana. We supply them with little ziplock bags of cut-up carrots or celery or even cucumbers and so we start to put some of that together on Friday afternoon with four or five volunteers. The fruit is all washed and put in bags. We get as much ready as we possibly can on Friday. Monday morning another group of volunteers comes together and put these supplies together in boxes and get them to the schools. I need 20 to 25 volunteers each week to pull this off.”
She continues and explains why she thinks teachers have the harder part of the job of getting the lunches to the students.
The teachers receive a box of lunches once a week. They will then need to fill each lunch bag with a jello or granola bar. They will also need to add the fruit and veggies which are stored in the fridge during the week. Neufeld says, “that's part of the reason why I say they've got the hard part. We literally drop it off at the door and they take care of it. They have the hard part, and they are an amazing group.”
Neufeld has also been shown appreciation for her work to which she says, “Oh well, you're welcome. It is such a privilege to work with these families. I am blessed every time I get to hang out at the soup kitchen and meet these families and talk to them. Spend some time with them, get to know them. I love them like an extended family and it's a real blessing and a privilege to be a part of this program.”
"There are so many people that have their hand in it and the love for the program and their heart is in it. And again, I am nothing without all of them.”