July 21, 2024

The program is anticipated to support at least 100 local school-aged children experiencing food insecurity

CENTRE WELLINGTON – Community groups are hopeful a new nutrition program will help keep students fed during the summer break. 

The Centre Wellington Community Foundation of North and Centre Wellington (CWCF) has partnered with the Community Resource Centre (CRC), the Children’s Foundation of Guelph-Wellington and other sponsors to create a “first-of-its-kind,” nine-week summer food support program called Summer Snax for any Wellington County families facing food insecurity outside of the school year. 

“What happens is when school is out, the (normal) supports are gone,” said Courtney O’Neill, the Nutritious Food Coordinator for the CWCF. “We know from our local student nutrition program contacts that schools are incredibly worried about what children are going to do in the summer because they know they don’t have enough food at home.”

According to O’Neill, the program is anticipated to provide free food support through snacks, fresh food and gift cards to at least 100 youth aged JK to Grade 12 from across Wellington County.

CWCF said the need is closer to 300 children. 

(The program) is needed because the rates of household food insecurity in the county, in the province and across the country continue to rise and the most recent data shows that the problem isn’t going away,” said O’Neill. 

A report from Smart Cities said the Centre Wellington Food Bank saw 346 household visits in January 2024, a 60 per cent increase from January 2023.

In 2023, food costs increased by 14 per cent in the region from 2022 and 30 per cent of Ontario children lived in food insecure households. 

“(Food insecurity means) youth don’t learn well at school (and) adults don’t enjoy health and wellness. We want to prevent these situations in our community with improved food access,” said CWCF executive director, Judy Foster, in an emailed statement. “This project with CRC that (we’re sponsoring) along with other partners is just one thing that we are working on to improve food insecurity here.” 

In addition to the increasing cost of living, O’Neil said the lack of public and affordable transportation options and food access points continues to cause barriers for residents experiencing food insecurity. 

Last year, the CWCF supported a similar pilot called the Snacks in the Backpack program, which provided 10 days worth of snacks to 317 children. 

“Something that’s really specific with this program is we considered the context of rural communities and the challenge of accessing different supports…so the program is looking at providing perishable and nonperishable options and allowing access points in the community by doing different things to get nutritious food to kids,” said O’Neill.

The program will be available at four access points across Wellington County on July 3 and 4 for weeks one to four and July 22 and 23 for the last five. 

Transportation and delivery options are available for those who need them. 

If successful, the group intends to run the program “in some shape or form” next year said O’Neill. 

Anyone interested in the program is encouraged to sign up and register by June 12 or reach out to a CRC outreach worker/your local food bank for assistance. 

Isabel Buckmaster is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.


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