Food needed to keep chil­dren fed over sum­mer

Do­na­tions often drop off af­ter school year ends

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - NATALIE PAD­DON npad­don@thes­pec.com 905-526-2420 | @NatatTheSpec

When school lets out for sum­mer, it can mean hun­gry bel­lies for stu­dents who rely on nutri­tion pro­grams through­out the year.

It’s just one con­tribut­ing fac­tor among sev­eral cited by lo­cal food agen­cies as to why they often feel the pinch dur­ing the sum­mer months.

Kids might be hun­grier at this time of year from run­ning around out­doors, said Joanne San­tucci, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor for Hamil­ton Food Share, a non­profit um­brella or­ga­ni­za­tion rep­re­sent­ing 11 food banks across the city.

And fam­i­lies’ bills can be higher than usual be­cause sum­mer heat often brings in­creas­ing util­ity costs to help cool things down, said Rachel O’Reilly, devel­op­ment and

com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager for Neigh­bour to Neigh­bour.

The need stays the same in sum­mer but do­na­tions to ma­jor food agen­cies are typ­i­cally fewer.

“It’s re­ally hard to be­lieve that while we plant our gar­dens and plan fam­ily va­ca­tions, there are peo­ple in our com­mu­nity who are wor­ry­ing about hav­ing enough to eat,” O’Reilly said.

Food4Kids is a non­profit agency that tucks healthy meals and snacks into the back­packs of at-risk chil­dren in Hamil­ton and Hal­ton to help keep them fed on school-year week­ends.

The pro­gram has grown ex­po­nen­tially since it started in 2012, now work­ing with 105 lo­cal schools and serv­ing more than 1,500 kids ev­ery week­end, said ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Lena Bass­ford.

In sum­mer, vol­un­teers de­liver food pack­ages once a week to the homes of 500 chil­dren whom schools have flagged as po­ten­tially in need, Bass­ford said.

“They’re fright­ened these chil­dren will have no food.”

To help com­bat dwin­dling do­na­tions, San­tucci sug­gests peo­ple con­sider con­tri­bu­tions to the food bank on their start-of-sea­son to-do lists, just like check­ing smoke de­tec­tors.

“That’s where it be­comes au­to­matic.”

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