When a Thorncliffe Park mother hit a rough patch and her income dropped, her first thought was her children.
“If it was just me… I don’t care,” said the woman, who CBC Toronto has agreed not to identify. “But when you have children, it’s a whole other ballgame.”
She immediately started searching for resources to help supplement the small amount of food she could put on the table, but found just one food bank in the area, which wasn’t open long enough for her to access.
“Going through that is very frustrating and to be honest, it’s almost heartbreaking,” she said. “To struggle to bring food home is something nobody wants to experience.”
During the school year, the woman’s children were fortunate to be able to access the city’s school nutrition programs.
But on summer break, the school program is not an option.
Now, a summer nutrition program, Summerlunch+, is trying to fill that gap, partnering with free summer camps across Toronto to provide healthy meals and snacks for students.
They expect to provide about 18,000 meals through their programs at Alexander Park, Thorncliffe Community Centre and Moss Park over the summer.
Urban gardens provide fruit and vegetables
Summerlunch+ does more than just provide meals, said Susan Wright, the program’s founder. “You can’t just feed kids and expect there to be longer term change,” she said.
“Our goal is to impact longer term health,” explained Wright. “We provide food literacy training. We talk to [the kids] about where food comes from, why it’s important to their bodies. We talk to them about vitamins, minerals and things like that.”
The organization, which is supported by Tides Canada, also has a garden at Thorncliffe park.
“We take kids from the summer camps into the gardens. They get to plant things, harvest things, eat off the vine, learn about where food comes from. They get to see that food in the lunch that we serve them,” said Wright.
They are also partnered with other urban gardens that provide fresh food to their Moss Park and Alexander Park locations.
Wright said this type of education makes their program more impactful. “Over time, we want to make sure that when kids are old enough to make their own decisions, they make healthy, sustainable decisions.”
The program, now in its second year, is starting relatively small compared to the need,…