Nanaimo Youth Services Association has launched a food support program for youths during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Black Press file)

Food program available for Nanaimo youths during COVID-19 pandemic

Nanaimo Youth Services Association offering food initiative on Thursdays

Youths in Nanaimo facing hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic can receive relief via a new Nanaimo Youth Services Association food program.

As of Saturday, there were 884 coronavirus cases in B.C., with 60 on Vancouver Island, in addition to distance restrictions and businesses closing to prevent spread. Aakash Pawar, the association’s employment program director, said there have been many requests for assistance, prompting launch of the youth food initiative.

People between 16 and 30 years old are required to first call the association to arrange pickup, which takes place Thursdays beginning April 2. They will subsequently receive packages containing perishable and non-perishable food items and the program will run during April and continue as long as there is a pandemic.

“A lot of the youth we come in contact with, they have been laid off and food is something that’s not really on their list right now and given that you need good immunity, good health right now, food is something we’re trying to push and we’re providing it for free, so that allows them a chance to sort of get a hold of whatever food they want,” said Pawar. “That also gives them some more spending money to focus on bills.”

RELATED: Sixty COVID-19 cases on Island as of March 28

RELATED: Food bank remains open, follows COVID-19 protocol

Food items are provided courtesy of Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank, but Pawar said the association will accept perishable and non-perishable food donations as well. Packages will be handed out depending on need and demand, he said.

“Say one week there’s only four people, obviously we’re going to be able to distribute a higher amount of food to them,” said Pawar. “But say there’s 40. Now everybody will get something, but they won’t necessarily get what they would if it was just four.”

The initiative came about after the NYSA’s employment program was halted and the association launched the youth support coach service to provide emotional support, with the food initiative an extension of that.

“We talked about that and we were like, ‘OK, so we will help youth … and then we were like OK, what else can we do? And this idea came up that we could directly impact lives over here by giving out food at this time of need,” Pawar said.

To set up an appointment, people are asked to message the association through Facebook or call 250-754-1989.

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