Apple slices, granola bars and on the go yogurt tubes are laid out for busy hands to gratefully grab on their way to classrooms at Holy Trinity Catholic School in Guelph this early 2023-2024 school year week.
The healthy snacks are provided to help fuel the hungry minds of students, made possible by the Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington’s Food and Friends Program.
Food & Friends offers breakfast, morning meal, snack and lunch programs providing an atmosphere of social inclusion amongst students.
“The Food & Friends student nutrition program is a preventative program committed to improving the learning capacity, health and well-being of school-aged children and youth, through the provision of healthy food before or during school. For some students, the meal they get from a Food & Friends program is the only food they’ll receive in that day,” shared Anita Anita Macfarlane, Program Director, Food & Friends and Scholarships with the Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington. “No child or youth should go through the day hungry. When children or youth are hungry, they are not able to focus on their task at hand, but instead their grumbling tummies.”
In 2021, 29% of food bank users in Guelph-Wellington were children between the ages of 0 to 14 years. Before COVID-19, 1 in 5 (or more) children in Canada faced food insecurity.
“Twice as many are at risk of going hungry now,” Macfarlane added.
Holy Trinity CS isn’t the only school who benefits from the Food & Friends Program, for the 2023-24 school year, 7000 students will have access to healthy food through twenty student nutrition programs.
“It’s used a lot for kids who need an additional snack, and we know that some kids who are food insecure benefit from the program,” shared Rob Della Croce, principal of Holy Trinity CS. “We see kids all throughout the day really, and we always see a wide variety of kids. It’s one layer of many that helps create a safe and welcoming tone in our school.”
To provide the twenty programs across the board it is estimated to cost near $250,000, funded through grants, local fundraising efforts and donations from the community. If you are interested in helping fuel hungry minds, donations can be directed to the Children’s Foundation of GW or to a school in your neighborhood.