People and programs 06/24/2020

When COVID-19 restrictions were put in place in New Brunswick in March, the Natoaganeg Community Food Centre cancelled its in-person meals and regular food programming. The centre then shifted focus toward emergency food aid, and recruited new volunteers to keep up with demand.

As an Education Assistant at the Natoaganeg School in Eel Ground First Nation, Tammy Richardson spent her days supporting First Nations students from grades 9 through 12. But when the school closed in March due to COVID-19, Tammy found herself with very little work.

So when her neighbour, River Ward, asked Tammy if she’d like to help out at the Natoaganeg Community Food Centre delivering healthy meals to community members, she signed up right away.

“I started volunteering three days a week, dropping off the meals and checking in on the Elders. They always love to see us coming and they’re so thankful. They tell stories, sometimes they’re long stories,” Tammy laughs.

“Then I got involved with preparing food boxes. We used space at the school because there was so much demand -- 105 households at one point, out of a community of only 700. Who knew I would be so busy when I was done work!”

And she didn’t stop there. Every other Thursday, Tammy drops by the Community Food Centre to help with a virtual cooking class. Chef Brian cooks up a delicious meal, using ingredients from the food boxes delivered the day before.

For Tammy, it’s meaningful to contribute in this way -- because she knows what it’s like to need help.

“I’m a single mom, and when my kids were younger, especially in wintertime, it was really hard to keep up with the high bills, and I had to use a food bank,” Tammy explains. “I thought it was embarrassing at the time, because I worked for a living. But now I realize anybody could be in this situation. So I love to give back because they gave to us when we needed it.”

Tammy started volunteering at Natoaganeg CFC because she had the time. But she found an unexpected sense of community.

“I thought I would go in and do deliveries and that was that. But now I feel a part of it. The staff ask my opinion, and make me feel good to be there. I will probably never stop going.”