It’s long been known that children can’t learn at their best when they’re hungry. But hundreds of Ottawa families are sending their kids to school without proper lunches.
“It’s a reality for families living in family shelters,” said Peggy Austen, senior director of community services for United Way Ottawa.
On Monday, United Way Ottawa and the Grocery Foundation officially launched a pilot program that will provide children living in family shelters the opportunity to make healthy lunches for school and learn about the benefits of a nutritious diet.
In 2008, there were 1,179 kids and youth living in emergency shelters, said Austen.
“The reality for families is that not having a home means inadequate food, poor health, lower social supports and incredible stress on families,” said Austen. “Nutrition plays a key role in children’s success in school.”
The program – which will cost $75,000 in its first year – has been implemented in two family emergency shelters in the city, including Forward Family Shelter and Carling Family Shelter.
Families will be able to access healthy food supplies to create lunches under the supervision of dietitian-trained staff.
Austen said the United Way hopes the program will expand to community health centres to meet the needs of even more children in the community.