Comments Off on Back to School Brings New Opportunities
As we approach the new school year, families that are already experiencing food insecurity are facing additional challenges as they prepare their school-aged children for September.
Like many in our community whose employment was disrupted due to the pandemic, Christina lost her full-time position last summer. When she found out one of North York Harvest’s food spaces operates from her neighbourhood community centre, she became a client.
“Those were trying times after losing my job and having a school-aged child idling at home throughout the summer,” shares Christina.
Over the last decade, children have made up just over 20% of Canada’s general population yet they represent more than 30% of our food bank clients.
Christina was appreciative of the additional food she got from North York Harvest every other week. “Not having to constantly worry about getting enough healthy food after paying rent and other necessities is a huge relief.”
The North York Harvest strives to maintain an accessible and equitable network so that the most vulnerable, especially families with children and seniors, can receive the support they need. Currently North York Harvest is providing emergency food to more than 2,500 individuals each week.
Our service is made possible by the generosity of community members like The Schulich Foundation. Please join us in spreading hope, health and well-being for the community, and double your impact before the end of September.
The Schulich Foundation, one of North York Harvest’s long-standing supporters, wants to ensure the generosity of neighbours-helping-neighbours has an even greater impact and will match all donations, dollar-for-dollar up to $100,000, until September 30.
Every day, people in your community rely on food banks to put food on the table for their families. In fact, North York Harvest helps more than 15,000 people meet their basic food needs each month. Many people don’t know that over 30% of people using our food bank are children – and a growing number of them in our community will be going back to school this year without enough food to be healthy and successful in school.
Tricia is a teacher at Beaumonde Heights Junior Middle School, one of our local schools. She sees many students coming to school with empty stomachs. Her students understand what it is like to use a food bank – either because their own family uses one, or one of their friends.
Beaumonde Heights JMS has hosted food drives for North York Harvest for 15 years, and this year is no different. All students get involved in the food drive to support their school, friends and neighbours. They know just how important these programs are.
Of course, childhood hunger is a symptom of family poverty. North York Harvest and our agencies are on the frontlines of a childhood poverty epidemic: according to a recent report, nearly 27% of children in Toronto live in poverty. In the North York community, that percentage is much higher. In some of our neighborhoods, almost 44% of children are living in poverty – and are much less likely to have access to enough healthy food to be successful in school.
We are facing serious challenges in this community. But every day, we are inspired by acts of compassion from people like Tricia who are determined to make a difference in the lives of kids in North York.
Today you can take action to join Tricia and the students from Beaumonde Heights in making a difference for kids heading back to school this fall. By making a gift to North York Harvest Food Bank you will be helping thousands of kids and their parents that rely on programs that provide healthy meals and snacks.
All children, no matter where they live or what their circumstances, deserve the same opportunity to succeed.
Some kids love it. Some kids hate it. But it is on the way! The kids are about to go back to school for another year of learning, friendship and fun.
Personally, I loved back to school as a kid. Every year at the end of summer, I got to go to the mall with my mom to buy new clothes and supplies. We’d usually make a day of it and grab some pizza for lunch.
I met Jenna earlier this summer. She told me how she’s really excited to start grade four. Her favourite classes are science and gym class. “I can’t wait to see my friends again and tell them about all the things I did this summer!”
Her mother Trish, on the other hand, is not as excited. Her hours have been cut at work again and she is having trouble paying for Jenna’s school supplies. “Rent is so expensive – I really can’t afford to pay for extra things Jenna needs.”
Trish isn’t the only one feeling the pinch in September. Many clients that come into the food bank struggle with daily expenses. And food is often the most flexible thing in the budget. Unhealthy food tends to be a lot cheaper than fresh foods so those items tend to make it into children’s lunches.
“I always felt terrible when I couldn’t put fresh fruit or vegetables in her lunches – but those things cost so much lately.”
I’ve seen it myself when buying my groceries. Fresh produce prices have been skyrocketing; sometimes it is just easier to get the cheaper items while sacrificing nutrition.
Even though Jenna is still young, she can still tell when there isn’t enough food for a healthy lunch. “Once in a while I get two oranges in my lunch. Those are my favourite! Last year I didn’t get oranges much. Sometimes I didn’t get much to eat at all.”
This year Trish turned to the food bank, “I am always so grateful after going to the food bank. I come home with healthy items for Jenna and myself. Things like bread, cheese and meat so I can make her sandwiches for lunch. And there are even eggs so she can have scrambled eggs in the morning – though I prefer mine sunny side up.”
I’m relieved know that families in Toronto have access to these food banks. No child should go to school hungry.
Luckily, your support of North York Harvest helps us ensure that Trish can fill Jenna’s lunch bag with healthy foods each day. She can also send Jenna off to school having had a healthy breakfast so she can concentrate on her studies.
“How can I make a difference in my community?” It’s a question we hear a lot at North York Harvest, and one that’s hard to give a concrete answer for. Every day we meet new amazing people who are taking new and creative approaches to helping their neighbours in need. Everyone’s different and the way they better their community is a reflection of that.
But while it’s hard to come up with a formula for creating positive change, we usually encourage people to do 3 things.
Choose your passion. Is it fresh food? Is it kids eating healthy meals?
Plan a fun and creative event based around the things you love to do.
Invite your friends, family and co-workers to join you.
Easier said than done right? Well, this last week, one of our incredible donors, Brand Active, followed these steps perfectly, and the result was inspiring, impactful, a really fun.
With the summer winding down, you’ve probably started to notice parents heading to the store to set their kids up with back-to-school supplies. Pencils, notebooks, calculators and backpacks are all important to a child’s academic success and self-esteem, but they can also be expensive, especially for your neighbours already on a tight budget. Any major expenses can be hard on a family, and when finances get strained the tough solution for many parents is to skip meals to make up the difference.
Long-time North York Harvest partner Brand Active had noticed the financial strain of back to school shopping, and decided that they wanted to help. They reached out to North York Harvest and before you knew it, a plan was in place.
Yesterday 22 Brand Active employees came to the NYH warehouse with 500 brand new back packs. Working as a team, the employees spent the morning carefully filling each back pack with school supplies that the Toronto District School Board had identified to them as the most crucial to a student’s success. After a few hours, the bags were packed and ready to be distributed to children throughout the community. Mission accomplished, right? Wrong. Brand active was just getting started.
The bags were packed in to cars and sent to one of our member agencies, the Room to Grow Community Food Bank in Toronto’s west end. The Brand Active team joined the volunteers there to set up Room to Grow’s first ever Back to School Community BBQ. Throughout the afternoon Brand Active volunteers grilled burgers, hosted games, and painted faces. At the end of the event over 400 families got brand new back packed filled with school supplies for their kids.
“We’ve partnered with NYH for several years and support them throughout the year. But we wanted to do more than just write a cheque. We wanted to engage all our employees and give back to our community. This was something special that went over and above the other ways we work with them. It’s not food. We realize that’s a bit odd given we are working with a food bank,” said Robynne Budish, Brand Active’s Principle Partner. “But for every backpack we hand out we are saving families anywhere from $50 -$60 that they would have to spend on schools supplies. That’s a lot of food they can buy instead.”
Comments Off on Sending Kids To School Hungry Puts Them At Risk
When was the last time you got hangry? It might be funny word, but it’s a very real feeling and we’ve all been there. If you’re like me, when you get really hungry, everything else, whether its work, studying or friends, shifts to the back-burner and you turn into an irritable, unfocused and checked out person. Sounds awful right? Well, the good news for you and me, is that this probably doesn’t happen all that often. We usually have access to lots of healthy, filling foods that keep our energy up and moods happy throughout the day. But what if this wasn’t just an occasional feeling and your hunger interfered with your happiness and productivity on a daily basis?
Not only is hunger robbing our children of a great learning and social experience, but it’s also hurting their chances of becoming engaged and productive community members, and seriously jeopardizing their future economic stability.
We know that when kids eat a full, healthy breakfast they usually have better attendance, are more attentive in the classroom, and have fewer disciplinary problems. So why are so many children going without?
Unfortunately, for many parents in our community struggling with poverty, going without food is often the solution to making ends meet. In a recent poll, 54% of North York Harvest clients said that they regularly skip meals in order to pay for things like rent, utilities, healthcare and transportation. Putting food on the family table might seem essential, but when you stack it against these other things, you can see how a good breakfast or a healthy lunch often doesn’t make it into the family budget.
That’s why we need you to ensure that next month every child is starting the day with a good breakfast, and is heading to school with a healthy packed lunch.