The Bethany Hope Centre, is fighting child hunger on a daily basis. We support children to have access to good, healthy food every day. We know that without food, these children are at risk of not being able to meet their developmental needs. Lack of proper nutrition can result in poor attitudes, behavior issues, decreased ability to focus in class and decreased school attendance. In younger children (ages 0-6) we see slower growth development and in some cases, the inability to meet critical developmental milestones when healthy food is not part of the equation.
The Bethany Hope Centre endeavors to empower young families, not only around food security, but food sovereignty. Not only are we concerned about getting food on children’s plates, we are also concerned about the nutritional quality and source of that food. In order to achieve this, The Bethany Hope Centre has adopted a poverty reduction approach for young families. This involves improving overall family well-being through several core programs and this is an excellent opportunity to target hunger/nutrition in our daycare/school-aged children. Our three main areas of interest in ending child poverty and hunger are Food Access, Food Skills and Education/Nutrition, and Food Advocacy.
Nourish School Lunchbox Program
Based on recent reports, we now know that in the prosperous City of Ottawa, 1 in 3 Food Bank users are children.
While we offer a food cupboard for those struggling to meet their family’s food needs it has become obvious that the foods provided are often not suitable for a child’s school lunch box. Many of the foods are highly processed, with limited fresh fruits and vegetables or grains available. In order to address this challenge, we have launched the School Lunch Box program at two sites in Ottawa. The main site is at the Bethany Hope Centre and in February 2017 we are launching a second site at the Ottawa Citadel on Walkley Rd, a community with many food security challenges.
The goal of this program is to provide families with an opportunity to learn new skills, develop a new appreciate for the food they cook and share with each other as a family and to receive the food resources and culinary tools required to provide their child with healthy lunchbox items for the week.
This could include items such as milk, dairy products such as yogurt and cheese, healthy homemade snacks, fresh fruits and vegetables and the basic items for packing a school lunch (such as water bottles, lunch boxes tupperware etc). This will also be accompanied by a teaching component which offers a session once a week for parents on cooking for their child.
A Sample of My Healthy Lunch Kit/ per child per week:
- 1 loaf bread
- 1 package of meat/PB/tuna and mayo/eggs
- 1 package of cheese
- 1 box of granola bars or a homemade alternative such as cookies, muffins et
- 5 fruit options/5 veggie options
Over the summer, school stops but the program continues with a focus on growing skills in the child. Activities will include gardening clubs and cooking programs. Families will continue to receive food for their children over the summer.
Overall Program Goal: to support 100 children per week at 2 sites (at a food cost of $10/week per child). This makes a huge impact with over 26,000 school lunches provided in a year.