Métis women feeding the hungry

Les Filles de Madeleine Provincial President Tammy Mah and Secretary Treasures Bonnie Vandale pose with Wes Erlendson of Safeway. Erlendson helped the organization stretch their dollars to create hampers for families in need. Submitted photo.

Fifty-six families and elders struggling to make ends meet in Prince Albert have food in their bellies thanks to the work of the provincial and local chapters of the Métis Women’s Association, Les Filles de Madeleine.

The provincial organization received $60,000 from the Métis Nation—Saskatchewan to help feed hungry residents. Each city chapter — Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Regina — received $8,000 while the rural chapters received $4,000.

Filles de Madeleine president Tammy Mah, who is from Prince Albert, was adamant that the funding be used to purchase food hampers and not cash or gift certificates.

“One of the stipulations I put on is food hampers to be delivered. Handing out gift cards and money is pulling people  out of houses and this virus is so serious,” she said.

“You will have delivery people dropping it off on their porch.”

The priority was families who had been laid off and hadn’t yet received any benefits. Other priorities were low-income seniors and those without support.

“Stores are shut down — those are minimum-wage workers. Our number one priority was to give hampers to the recently unemployed,” Mah said.

Prince Albert’s chapter president Brenda White helped put together the local hampers.

“Our main goal was getting children fed, making sure they had enough to eat for the next while,” she said.

“We targeted people who were in between being laid off and waiting for EI to kick in. Those are the people that are really hurting. Some haven’t had income for three to four weeks.”

The chapter budgeted for 50 hampers but was able to assemble 56. Larger hampers, worth about $200 each, went to families while smaller ones went to elders in need.

“We worked with Wes Erlendson of Safeway and he did a fabulous job for us. He helped us to stretch every dollar,” White said.

Mah agreed.

“Safeway was awesome. They gave us an awesome deal. (Erlendson) went over and above to help us.”

The hampers themselves contained meat such as pork chops, chicken, hamburger meat, sausages and baloney; canned fruit; staples such as sugar, peanut butter, jam, margarine pasta and pasta sauce and rice; loaves of bread; soup and tea.

“A lot of the basic stuff,” White explained. “Things they can stretch out into meals.”

The families who were able to receive the hampers were grateful.

“They were thrilled. They were so appreciative. We didn’t have a single bad response from anybody,” White said.

“They appreciated the help. A couple of them had a total surprise, and they were just thrilled to get it. We’ve been getting emails and phone calls from a lot of them, just thanking us.”

Now that the first batch of hampers has been distributed. Mah and White are hoping to do it again.

It will, though, depend on funding.

Mah is hopeful the Métis Nation — Saskatchewan will step up.

“I’m hoping the next round (of funding) they will include us,” she said.

“Let’s keep people in their homes. We have to help out this way. This is far from over.”