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500 children in Halton used to go hungry on weekends: Food4Kids changed that – they want to extend into the summer.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

April 18, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

Covering city hall means listening to people talk.  After a while you get to know pretty well what a council member is going to say.  You can`t watch a group of people for three years and not learn something about each of them.

There are four newbies; three council members and a Mayor who have grown in their jobs to various degrees and as we get further into the election campaign we will write about what we have observed.

There are two other groups we get to listen to: staff and the reports they deliver and delegations.  Some staff members do fine work, a few are superb – some made the wrong career choice.

It is the delegations that are really interesting.  Some are there to represent an interest group; some are there to complain, others to ask for something very specific and some are at the podium to tell a story and hopefully influence council.

Those delegations that are appearing for the first time are the most interesting.  We never know what it is they want to say.

Food4kids - group

In some communities children like this go hungry on the weekends.

Like every advocate for the less fortunate,  Lena told stories about individuals and the impact they have had on her and her organization.  She wanted Council to hear how difficult it is for some people.  The family where the father had to go on disability and the mother who gave up working to take care of the father.   It wasn`t long before the savings were gone and the family was relying on food banks and social support.

Truthfully, I tend to tune out for many of these delegations.  Council always listens politely realizing there isn’t much they can do – social welfare is a Regional responsibility

Lena Bassford and Food4Kids saw the need and began providing packages of healthy food for kids aged 5-14 years with limited or no access to food each weekend.

Packages are prepared by volunteers and delivered to schools each Friday to ensure children have nourishment over the weekend.  There were 1,200 children in Hamilton and 500 children in Halton going without food on the weekends.  Food4kids took the position that when kids leave school for the weekend, they should not have to worry about how they will be fed. 

Bassford explained how her organization works with other groups; Food for Life; Food for Thought and the school boards which was the capture point for Food4Kids.

Then Lena made a point and my head snapped up – she described a boy that was standing outside a school early in the morning – and in an instant I realized she was talking about me.

The boy, part of a single parent family, three children and a mother with a grade four education who worked as a domestic.  Mom was paid $5 a day and car fare.  On those days she didn`t get paid – “I don`t have any cash in my purse, I`ll pay you next week “– meant Mom walked home and we had Habitant Pea Soup for dinner.

There were no food banks in those days.  When there wasn`t soup in the house we would get sent to the Stop & Shop with a note for Reggie the manager and came home with some food.  We always thought Reggie was an uncle, he was around the house quite a bit.

As Lena Bassford talked she mentioned the social cost of not ensuring children had food in their stomachs.  A student can`t concentrate on math problem when their stomach is growling.  When the household situation is really bad – petty theft begins and sometimes grows to the point where a boy figures it out.  I don’t have to go without – I can just take what I want; my hands are fast enough and if they see me I can run very fast.

Or the boy meets other boys who have stealing down to an art form.  And the realization that this is a way to gets what you want sets in.  The male family figure isn’t in the house, there are no core values being taught, there are no values being handed down.

Food4kids - bag + appleAs a society we are quite happy to pay for social workers, police officers, correctional people (jail guards), prisons, lawyers, judges, parole officers – the list of people in place to handle people in conflict with the criminal justice system is astounding.  If a quarter of that money was spent on prevention – making sure that 10 year old boys got fed on the weekends, we would save society a lot of money, a lot of grief and a lot of pain.  Of course all the people in the criminal justice system would be without jobs

Lena Bassford explained the Food4Kids core concept: they provide packages of healthy food for kids aged 5-14 years with limited or no access to food each weekend.

Packages of healthy food are prepared by volunteers and delivered to schools each Friday to ensure children have nourishment over the weekend.  There are 1,200 children in Hamilton and 500 children in Halton sustaining each and every weekend without food.

Imagine  if we became the first community in Canada to say  No child in our community is hungry.For many children Bassford explained “hunger isn’t just an occasional missed meal; it is a way of life. Children who live with hunger develop physically and socially at a slower pace than their peers. Chronically hungry children experience higher levels of anxiety, hyperactivity, irritability and aggression. Chronic hunger results in students with lower attendance rates at school and lower academic performance. Even relatively short-term nutritional deficiencies can negatively impact a child’s health, causing cognitive and developmental damage that prevents them from performing at their full potential.”

Councillor Lancaster asked the obvious question: What do you do in the summer?  Bassford  explained that a program is in the process of being developed that will provide food for these kids during the summer break.

What does it cost to provide the complete program annually?  $500,000 – of which every penny is raised by the organization.  Note a dime from the municipal, regional, provincial or federal governments.  That’s about what we spend for five police officers.

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1 comment to 500 children in Halton used to go hungry on weekends: Food4Kids changed that – they want to extend into the summer.

  • MINA WAHIDI

    I tip my hat to Leena. Every little bit helps. We can never stop helping and we can never forget those in need. When we are strong, it is our duty to help those who need a hand. Not all charities or agencies can be everywhere, and I feel FOOD 4 KIDS is a great organization!