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Feeding Young Minds

Published July 19, 2014 14:16

Source http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/feeding-young-minds-267755221.html

For almost 30,000 kids across the province who depend on Winnipeg Harvest for emergency food, hunger doesn't take a summer holiday.

During the summertime, 23 schools temporarily shut down their meal and snack programs. Students can seek out one of nine new food programs that pop up to fill the void in the meantime, located at community centres, churches and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Winnipeg.

"It's not like we have stuff left over at any particular time; we're always sharing as much as we can," said Donald Benham, Winnipeg Harvest's director of hunger and poverty awareness.

Summer is a slower season for the food bank too, as people are often more generous with donations during the holidays.

"At any time of year, about half of our clients are children living in poor families," said Benham.

"First and foremost we know that kids have to eat in order to learn and in order to do well in their studies and in life."

Winnipeg Harvest works with more than 370 agencies in Manitoba to share food, including Community School Investigators, a five-week summer learning program that feeds and entertains 1,000 inner-city kids during the week.

Andrea Caron has enrolled her 11-year-old son, Elliot, in the CSI program at Sister MacNamara School for the last four summers, while she works toward earning a degree in social work.

"CSI really helps being in school full time," said Caron. "It helps in caring for Elliot during the school hours, so that he has opportunities to focus on activities that he's interested in by being provided his daily necessities."

CSI offers two healthy meals per day as well as snacks. The organization also takes kids on day trips and keeps them active with sports.

Elliot is painstakingly aware his exciting days at CSI are numbered -- his mother is almost finished her degree.

"I only have one more year of CSI left," he said solemnly.

Elliot said he doesn't mind being at school all summer because CSI is so entertaining.

"It's kinda like school, but not too much of school... we have fun, swim and learn," he said. He also called CSI's catering "good and yummy."

Caron said she would be able to provide food for Elliot if she weren't in school full time.

Benham said regardless of a family's financial situation, Harvest wants to ensure every child is always fed.

"We're all working toward the day when the need won't be there and we can close our doors," he said.

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