PRINCE ALBERT -- Some children and teens have gone without breakfast and lunch programs after schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Natalie Guimond says.

As the director of INDIGital Saskatchewan, she saw more use at drop-in centres like The Gate.

That led her to set-up the Community Cares Kitchen for people short on food in Prince Albert.

“I really believe that it took the pandemic to bring people together and it required everybody who was having these dialogues at their own community tables, but we needed to come together.”

Funding from Prince Albert Grand Council Urban Services and the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division kickstarted the Food on the Move program run by Community Cares Kitchen.

Other partners include Prince Albert Foodbank, Prince Albert Outreach and churches. It has grown from helping a handful of people to 578 lunch bags being handed out on Wednesday.

The Community Cares Kitchen makes and distributes brown bag lunches to children and adults at 11 locations throughout the city.

It also checks in on elders and provides food to people who come to the door of Parkland Hall.

The Community Cares Kitchen has about 40 volunteers. Guimond connected with service clubs, churches and schools to find volunteers.

“That hope and that love has translated out into the community in waves. So we're in talks about how do we make this a sustainable program - not just for this for next month or the next six months but for years to come,” Guimond said.

Cory Trann, the superintendent of the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division, said they’ve encouraged their staff to volunteer.

He said it’s also a way for teachers and support staff to stay connected with students.

“Not just in youth, but there's a high level of food security issues within our city. We'd like to part of that solution rather than not.”