A lunch program that provides nutritious meals to underprivileged kids in the summer has launched in Victoria and is expected to help close to 6,000 local youth this year.
The Feeding Our Future Initiative, which was started by the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation in 2001, serves free lunches to kids attending subsidized summer camps from July to August. From Monday to Friday, volunteers pack the fresh lunches, which usually include a sandwich, juice, fresh fruit, yogurt and the occasional chocolate chip cookie.
The lunches are then delivered to several organizations that give them to youth. It is one of the largest summer lunch programs in the country, delivering more than one million lunches since its inception.
“The idea was to step in once school had ended and to try and fill a gap where subsidized lunches stopped at the end of June,” said Paula Henchion, general manger for Sodexo at St. Michaels University School. “It takes an awful lot of the stress off parents because they don’t have to go through the trouble of organizing their kids’ lunches in the morning or trying to put something together.”
So far, the initiative has found success in nine cities across the country including Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax, and now it is taking off in Victoria.
For the past few weeks, students and volunteers at St. Michaels University School have been packing lunches daily to be delivered to the Burnside Gorge Community Centre, the Quadra Village Centre, the Fernwood Community Centre, the Harbourside Boys and Girls Club, and the Victoria Native Friendship Centre.
While the program started a few years ago in Victoria, it has flown under the radar, with volunteers delivering more than 6,000 bagged lunches to local children over the past three summers.
Kelly Greenwell, executive director of the Quadra Village Community Centre, said roughly half of the 40 kids who attend their summer camps each week are from low-income families.
“It just helps make sure that all the kids that come into our summer programs have a healthy lunch to eat so they’re not stressed out during the program about that,” he said, adding the Feeding Our Future Initiative provides lunches to some of the centre’s other programs as well.
“It puts things on an even playing field for them (kids). They can really come at all the activities, the fun, the adventure with all the energy and good nutrition that other kids have.”
Henchion expects to serve almost 6,000 lunches this year.
Sodexo Canada delivers on-site service solutions to clients in healthcare, education, businesses and industry, and remote site sectors.