The volunteer commitment of students and staff at Mount Royal Collegiate has been recognized by the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre (SFBLC).
The food bank, which presents annual awards to recognize the engagement of community members, chose Mount Royal as the recipient of the Youth Leadership in Action award, thanks in large part to the volunteer efforts of Grade 9-10 students in the Alternative Education Work Studies (AEWS) program.
"Our students have always been proud to volunteer their time and learn about the food bank," said teacher Coralea Propp. "Some families rely on the food bank, and for students to see how it is run in the warehouse is a great way to learn about the need for the food bank and gain work experience and readiness skills at the same time."
Students from the program have been contributing to the work of the food bank for more than a decade, Propp said. In addition to the practical and work education benefits, volunteering with a community-based organization such as the food bank is a character-building opportunity for students and supports their well-being and development of compassion, empathy, and a strong work ethic.
The award recognizes a school or organization that harnesses the power of youth engagement to advance food security in the community. Award recipients are recognized for a commitment that: demonstrates an understanding to social justice; exemplifies the food bank's core values of respect, innovation, compassion, and collaboration; provides a significant impact to the food bank; and inspires action within their school and beyond.
Kelsey Drayton, the food bank's volunteer coordinator, said Mount Royal Collegiate students and staff show their commitment to advancing food security in the community in several ways.
"Over the past several years we have been grateful to welcome volunteers from the grade 9/10 students from the Alterative Education Work Study program," Drayton said. "This group has garnered praise from our warehouse staff for their solid dependability and work ethic. We've also had the pleasure of hosting work education placements for students in grade 11 and 12, who have done a great job in whatever placement they've taken on."
In addition to volunteer efforts at the food bank, AEWS classes take part in school-based initiatives such as daily preparation of 40 lunches for fellow students who may not have a lunch and caring for a community vegetable garden. The garden project provides students with both food and the knowledge of how to grow vegetables themselves.
"The students are involved in every step of the process — purchasing seeds, planting seeds, transplanting to the garden, weeding etc.," Propp explained. "The goal of this garden is to provide fruit and vegetables to the students but also for use in home economics classes to provide practice in preparing a variety of foods and the basics of canning. We have classes every week where we teach students basic cooking skills and stress the idea of preparing your own meals as a healthier and more cost-effective option than purchasing prepared meals."
The level of commitment by Mount Royal students to the food bank and food security within the community is deserving of recognition, Drayton said.
"As our work as an organization aims to work towards a food secure community, it is important for us to see how young people are contributing to food security not only within the walls of the SFBLC, but also in their school community and beyond," she said. "We are excited to hear of a number of other initiatives that the school has implemented. We are thrilled to see Mount Royal Collegiate engaging in food security initiatives and to see youth learning these skills now to lead the community in generations to come."