Student Nutrition Programs (SNPs) across the province adapted their in-school programs to support families experiencing food insecurity when schools closed mid-March. Thanks to volunteers across various school boards, thousands continue to access healthy foods.
United by their common goal and collaborative spirit, organizations and volunteers in Peel, Halton, Waterloo, Guelph, Wellington and Dufferin quickly established several food initiatives which have fed thousands of students across Central West Ontario.
Support from The Grocery Foundation, including topping up of grocery vouchers and gift cards, beyond what the programs would traditionally receive, has allowed community partners to stretch their dollars that much further and expand their reach.
The Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington continues to provide healthy food to hungry minds by collaborating with local organizations and grocers. Thanks to strong community connections, their Fresh Food for Kids initiative has reached over 3,600 students since the beginning of April. Dedicated volunteers who support with the packing and delivery of these healthy food baskets have been vital to efforts to date and made this crucial support possible for families. Meals change on a weekly basis, but include fresh fruit or vegetables, whole-grains and alternatives like yogurt, cheese, hummus, eggs and more.
In Waterloo Region, Nutrition for Learning, which was quick to modify their operations and encourage students to practice healthy eating, even during school closures has been working in consultation with school boards, the Region of Waterloo and Public Health. Refrigerated trucks have enabled them to take their nutrition program mobile with “Pop Up Nutrition Breaks” delivered following strict social distancing protocols to ensure the health and safety of staff, volunteers and community participants. Nutrition for Learning has distributed upwards of 60,000 meal boxes since mid-March.
Access to healthy food has never been more important than right now. School closures mean that students who normally rely on school-based nutrition programs could be at risk of experiencing marginal to severe food insecurity. In Halton, Halton Food for Thought has been collaborating with Food for Life, Food 4 Kids Halton along with the local school boards, creating Together! We Feed Students!
The initiative is using existing infrastructures to provide 10,000 meals a week to students and families in Halton Region. Donations to Halton Food for Thought, including the gift cards, food vouchers, and coupons provided by The Grocery Foundation, made their way to Food for Life Burlington, which has overseen the ordering, assembly and the delivering of the food.
Similarly, the YMCA GTA Peel Student Nutrition Program recognized that strengthening partnerships within the community would be key to successfully supporting the nutritional needs of their students. Working with local school boards, the Peel Learning Foundation and community-housing groups, has resulted in the opening of new food hubs and additional support for initiatives like Fueling Healthy Minds—Malton. As of May 18th, in the Peel Region, the YMCA GTA Peel Student Nutrition Program has helped distribute approximately 60,000 meals.
During these stressful times, families are anxious about providing for their children. The support from The Grocery Foundation has been critical in helping to provide a range of healthy breakfast items, fresh dairy, fruits, vegetable, and pantry items. Thankfully, volunteers and partner networks are vast in each of these regions and across the province. School staff and volunteers have helped to distribute food to families in need, made possible by generous donors and supporters - we are proud to be among them. When students return to school funds from the Toonies for Tummies campaign, which took place in February and March across Ontario, will help programs as they continue to offer support.
Thank you to everyone who continues to support the efforts of The Grocery Foundation and the many volunteers who are hard at work helping families.