It’s not a fact we like to think about, but many kids in our local schools go through their day hungry, causing lack of energy and focus, inhibiting their ability to learn.
School food programs help address this problem, but what about the weekends?
This month ShareNet introduces its Food to Grow pilot program in two Kingston schools: Wolfle Elementary and Spectrum Community. Food to Grow will distribute nutritious, easily portable food to students in need for weekend consumption, when school food programs are not available to them.
Students will be identified by school counselors, who will discuss participation with the student and their family, then make the referral to ShareNet if appropriate.
About 15 students have already been referred to the program, and the numbers are expected to build gradually but steadily as word gets out.
The food will include cereals, single servings of fresh produce and easily microwaveable items.
The food is meant to be easy to prepare and consume as we will not know the home environment or cooking equipment available there. The food is intended for the student named and is meant for weekend use, not as anytime snacks or for the extended family, though we understand that, realistically, the kids will consume as they wish.
A Spectrum staffer told us that, “Most of their students are hungry most of the time.”
This may be partly due to the fact their student body is all adolescent, but many of the Spectrum kids are not in stable homes or are technically homeless, staying with friends or couch surfing, so there is hardly an ideal environment for keeping a growing teen well-fueled for school.
Families in need of assistance beyond Food to Grow will be encouraged through the program to contact us, so that the entire family may benefit from services available through ShareNet, rather than just the student.
Students will be eligible even if the family already receives ShareNet assistance and vice versa; participation in one program will not exclude participation from the other.
If your child could benefit from the Food to Grow weekend food program in schools, please contact your school counselor. With only a couple of months left in the current school term, this phase of the program is regarded as a pilot, perfect for working out the necessary structures, purchasing, and logistics.
At the end of the term participants, families, schools, and ShareNet will evaluate the program’s effectiveness and decide upon continuation and direction for the future. The program has been in development since 2009, with eager volunteers and staffers excited about its possibilities.
Food to Grow is expected to find and meet its need. If you’d like to donate specifically to this program, please let us know; as it grows the costs to operate it will increase.
Farmers and home gardeners: If you have excess produce, or would like to earmark part of your growing area for donations to ShareNet, we would like to hear from you.
We would like to build consistent relationships with growers, as produce remains a challenging segment of the food we provide. We either seem to have none at all or a windfall which is so much it’s then difficult to store or distribute quickly.
Reliable, anticipated relationships would help us provide more fresh produce to the part of our community in need.
This column originally appeared in the May 2010 edition of the Kingston Community News.