Hunger: It can affect the concentration, memory, mood, and motor skills of children. Often brought on by food insecurity, hunger has been well documented to prevent children from performing in school to the best of their ability.
Luckily, two groups of local heroes have joined forces to combat child hunger: 100+ Women Who Care Lennox & Addington (100+WL&A) donated $8,000 to support the heroic efforts of The Food Sharing Project today, Tuesday, Jun 6, 2023, in Napanee.
The goal of 100+WL&A is to make a meaningful impact on local community causes. Since first assembling in 2016, with a hiatus during the recent pandemic, they have met 20 times and raised $218,900 for good causes in the county.
The women, who meet quarterly, jointly select a local not-for-profit organization, and each individual or team of members writes a $100 cheque to the selected charity for a total donation goal of $10,000 each time.
The Food Sharing Project is a registered charity that has been serving the area for almost 40 years. The organization provides nutritious food and equipment to schools for their in-school breakfast, lunch, and snack programs.
Andy Mills, Executive Director of The Food Sharing Project (TFSP), said the donation from 100+WL&A could not have come at a more important time.
“In 2019, prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we sent food with a value of $12,000 to schools each week, and in 2022, that amount skyrocketed to $21,000 per week,” he said, indicating that the generous donation represents a significant amount of the cost of nutritious food provided locally by TFSP this year, making a real impact on the lives of young people in Lennox and Addington.
“In the 2022-23 school year, it is projected that the 16 schools in Lennox and Addington County will serve over 90,000 nutritious breakfasts, lunches, and hearty snacks with food provided by The Food Sharing Project, helping over 3,000 students take advantage of all that school has to offer, without being hungry at school.”
According to Mills, TFSP is a partner in the Ontario government’s Student Nutrition Program.
“All the food we provide meets nutritional criteria and includes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and proteins, including dairy. Based on the needs of their students and the availability of space and volunteers, schools choose from a variety of models, such as sit-down breakfasts, hearty snacks in classroom bins, or grab-and-go lunches. School Coordinators send us a weekly order form and use the food to prepare and distribute healthy meals and snacks that are available to any student who needs nutrition, no questions asked,” he explained.
“Students come to school without enough food for a variety of reasons, and educators and research tell us that when [students] can eat nutritious food at school, [they] are more engaged in their learning, can focus better on tasks, and can have more positive social interactions throughout the day. They are also more willing to try something new, which can lead to better food choices as adults.”
One in nine families in KFL&A experiences food insecurity, Mills explained, so when healthy food is provided to students at school every day, families can spend their limited income on rent, utilities, or gas for their car to get to work. Since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, more families have relied on in-school nutrition programs, and the demand for food at schools has increased dramatically.
“School Coordinators tell us, ‘The kids are so hungry,’ and they apologize for increasing their weekly food order,” said Mills. “They share stories such as the graduating student who said he would have had to quit school and get a job if he and his siblings had not been able to access food at school, or the student who told their teacher that the food at school is the best food they have all day.”
“Although we can feed a child at school for as little as $2 a day, we too are feeling the impact of rising prices,” Mills acknowledged. “We are paying 20 per cent more for food and 30 per cent more for fuel; that’s $100,000 more in the 2022-23 school year for the same amount of food as 2021-22. With the help of our generous donors, we can make sure that every student has access to nutritious food and will not go through the school day hungry.”
Amy Mack is one of the ‘leading ladies’ of 100+L&A. She explained that “as a member of 100 Women Who Care Lennox & Addington County, you commit to giving $100 four times per year, for a total donation of $400 annually, directly to registered charities serving Lennox & Addington County.”
She also pointed out that they are always seeking new members.
“Especially since COVID, it’s been hard for people to give as much as they would like, so we encourage them to join us as a team to make that less of a burden… Joining with a team allows you to split the cost and time commitment among teammates and creates a community with co-workers, friends, or like-minded peers,” she said, noting that, for example, instead of joining as individuals who write a cheque for $100 every three months, four women could join as a team and each give $25.
Mack is clearly proud of the efforts of her 100+ chapter: “I was inspired after hearing the impact that other 100 Women Who Care chapters have accomplished in their neighbourhoods. The concept is simple, and the impact is overwhelming. To gather a group of women in Lennox & Addington [who are] able to provide financial assistance to programs that fill needs within our neighbourhood [is] empowering… Being one of 100+ Women Lennox & Addington [makes] a positive change in the community we live in.”
For more information about The Food Sharing Project, visit their website or contact their office at (613) 530-3514. To learn more about 100+ Women Who Care Lennox and Addington, find them on Facebook or on their website.