WINNIPEG – Thousands of children across Manitoba depend on summer programs to combat hunger.
When schools close their doors for the summer, most of their meal programs end too.
“If a kid was depending on that school nutrition program he or she is out of luck,” said Donald Benham, director of hunger and poverty awareness at Winnipeg Harvest.
Nearly 30,000 children across Manitoba depend on Winnipeg Harvest for emergency food, especially during the summer, when 29 schools shut down their meal and snack programs. Nine operate during the summer, including Community School Investigators lead by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Winnipeg.
“We’re finding there are some children we’ve come in contact with who over the weekend even don’t have food, and so they come to see CSI and they’re hungry,” said Robyn Peter of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Winnipeg.
“How tough is it on a parent to turn to your kid and say, ‘I’m sorry I don’t have enough food for you. There’s nothing in the fridge; there’s nothing I can do,’ ” said Benham.
CSI, which is free, feeds and entertains about 1,000 children.
“We do really fun activities like sports, swimming and art, and we get free meals. We get lunch and breakfast,” said CSI participant Elliot Caron.
“When I drop him off in the morning, he gets his breakfast. That’s when I go to school, so I know he’s taken care of for lunch and snacks,” said Elliot’s mother, Andrea Caron.
Elliot has been spending his summers at CSI for four years and a highlight of his is trying all of the different food options.
“We have a different meal every day. There’s something called cultural week, where we get cultural food from different cultures,” said Elliot.
With high demand to get into one of the nine summer programs, there is a wait list.