With virtual learning, cancelled school events and gathering restrictions in place, a Mattagami First Nation school is supporting its students by delivering food boxes purchased from a Timmins farm.
Keewaytinook Internet High School (KiHS) classroom mentor and teacher Ian Vaithilingam recently delivered food boxes to 18 active students and their families.
The boxes were bought from Graham Acres and included bacon, ground beef, pork chops, a roasting chicken and a dozen farm-fresh eggs.
“For now, we’re hoping it’ll help support the students to get to the end of the term which is only a few more weeks left,” Vaithilingam said. “We’re hoping it will give them some energy, help them hang in there.”
It was a “great collaboration,” he said noting Allen Graham was willing to deliver the boxes that Vaithilingam then distributed within the community.
Nicole Graham of Graham Acres said the boxes are a part of the standard special boxes offered by the farm and can be obtained by anyone who wishes to shop with them.
“We loved and appreciated that they (KiHS Mattagami FN) sourced us for this request as we very much support local shopping,” she said.
KiHS is a program allowing First Nations students to receive their high school diploma while staying in their home communities. In Mattagami, the program started running three years ago.
The KiHS service model is based on the medicine wheel and focuses on the students’ mental, physical, social and emotional development.
For physical development, every KiHS in communities across Northern Ontario runs its own nutrition program providing students with healthy snacks and breakfast foods to support their learning in the classroom, Vaithilingam said.
Since the province paused in-person learning with the stay-at-home order, the school felt the students should still benefit from the nutrition program.
“The good thing about our school, they don’t just say it. They really put it into action,” Vaithilingam said.
Some of the communities went to “crazy lengths” to support the nutrition program, according to Vaithilingam. He said one of the KiHS teachers in Thunder Bay purchased an entire cow and a pig from a local farm to have them butchered and sent to students in fly-in communities.
“It’s amazing to see the incredible effort some of the teachers are putting in, like above and beyond their job descriptions so that they can help with the nutrition program,” he said.