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First Nation Education Directorate begins Christmas hamper program

Pick-ups for hampers are scheduled at local schools
Yukon First Nation Education Directorate education advocates and volunteers help to sort and distribute Christmas hamper grocery boxes outside Elijah Smith Elementary School on Feb. 23. (Rebecca Bradford Andrew/Submitted)

The Yukon First Nation Education Directorate (YFNED) is beginning its Christmas hamper program for all Whitehorse-based Indigenous families.

The program provides over 750 food hampers to families with children under 18 years old. The hampers are part of the Jordan’s Principle Nutritional Service of the YFNED and contain the ingredients “to make several holiday feasts.”

“These hampers help Indigenous families put healthy, delicious food on the table over the holidays,” said Melanie Bennett, executive director of YFNED. “Ensuring our students have access to healthy food is essential in our holistic, wrap-around approach to education.”

The hampers include a meat box with a turkey, ham, chicken, beef and pork. A second box contains fruits and vegetables, another has dairy products and a fourth provides families with dry goods.

“In total, each family gets four boxes that consist of one hamper, and it has all of those components. So it would be able to make a few meals,” Bennett said.

“I think it’s been good Food for the Soul for the staff that has been giving it out as well. To hear all the thank yous, we’ve heard it in every format. That’s a very good thing right now in very testing times,” she said.

Bennett thanked PNW Freight Systems, Save-On-Foods and the First Nations education advocates on staff for being involved in the program and making sure everything was delivered and packed up despite COVID-19.

Hampers are being distributed between Nov. 23 and Dec. 17 at selected times from Whitehorse public schools.

Those who are interested in getting a hamper must pre-register online at the link posted to the Directorate’s website or call 1-833-YFN-KIDS.

Hampers are also available to First Nations families in the rural communities outside of Whitehorse but they are being distributed through each individual nation.

The YFNED is a new organization that was created in August 2020 with the goal of improving outcomes for First Nation students in the territory after the 2019 auditor general’s report found improvements were badly needed.

The organization’s activities are based on a “wrap-around” model that includes direct education supports as well as initiatives like the Jordan’s Principle Nutrition Service that provides healthy food.

“If that person or that child is fed, and happy in that sense, they’re ready to learn when they’re at school,” Bennett said.

The organization serves both rural and urban students. Since the creation of the YFNED was announced the organization has handed out 83,000 lbs of salmon and bison to Whitehorse families through the Jordan’s Principle Nutritional Program. Hamper programs take place around Christmas break and spring break.

On Nov. 30 families can pick up boxes from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at F.H. Collins and Porter Creek secondary school.

Next month families can schedule pick-ups on Dec. 10 and Dec. 11 at the Independent Learning Centre and Jack Hulland Elementary School. On Dec. 14 and 15 pick-ups will take place at Selkirk Elementary School and Vanier Catholic Secondary School.

On Dec. 16 and 17 pick-ups can take place at Whitehorse Elementary School from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pick-ups for Golden Horn Elementary or Grey Mountain Primary School are 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 16.

Pick-ups for Hidden Valley Elementary School and Holy Family Elementary School will take place from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 17.

Contact Haley Ritchie at