Sudbury nutrition program finds way to reach students
Mobile hubs like this one have been popping up around the city as the Student Nutrition Program at Better Beginnings, Better Futures, looks to get healthy food into the hands of families who need or want it. March 27/21 (Ian Campbell/CTV News Northern Ontario)
SUDBURY -- Schools may be closed in the Greater Sudbury region but these days the parking lots are seeing lots of action for families who need the help.
Better Beginnings, Better Futures has been holding mobile hubs providing free, healthy food to families in need.
The food would normally be distributed inside the classroom but with virtual learning now in place, they're looking at new ways to ensure children are eating healthy.
"Our manager's idea was to help outreach get food to families even though schools weren't operating, because that's our main goal is that students are still getting fed," said student nutrition program coordinator Michelle Carscadden.
"So we have breakfast bags prepared or lunch bags prepared with cheese, yogurt tubes, bread ... we have cereal, potatoes, and a bunch of goodies."
The Friday they spent outside St. James Catholic School in Lively was only their fourth hub since schools closed and word is quickly getting out.
Dozens of families have visited them at previous hubs at places like École MacDonald-Cartier and Foyer Jeunesse, to get the nutrition they need.
The pandemic has been tough on all of us and this staff says it's extremely hard to judge a book by its cover. No one knows what's happening at home.
"And we send emails out to the schools inviting parents and it's all inclusive, it's not just for the people we think may need it, in the pandemic, the people we think may not need it may need it the most," said program coordinator Alex Gagnon.
One by one, parents are greeted with no judgement. Groceries are worth anywhere between $30-$50 and are placed in their vehicles and they're able to leave.
"To reach as many of those home learners as possible whether it's thru food deliveries or gift cards to the families, there was an alternative solution. Now with these closures we're kind of shooting from the hip and we organize these mobile hub events to distribute the extra food," said Gagnon.
"And it's really great seeing kids come and they're going 'oh my goodness, yogurt tubes,’ and they're excited. It's great to see, it really is," said Carscadden.
A recent Statistics Canada report found almost one in five Canadians who have children in their household have experienced some sort of food insecurity during this pandemic.
The mobile food drives will continue into the foreseeable future, as long as Better Beginnings, Better Futures can do it while school is out.
Three mobile hubs have already been planned for next week.
The initiative was made possible thanks to funding help from the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, the United Way, and various other partners.
For more information on the program, how to help or volunteer, you can visit the group at its website.