Food4Kids is a Hamilton-Halton-based program dedicated to providing children, ages 4-14, healthy food packages on the weekends. These packages can include oatmeal, healthy cereal options (Cheerios, Raisin Bran), applesauce cups, fruit cups, healthy granola bars, fresh fruit and veggies, bagels with soy butter and/or jam, pita breads, cans of pastas, and soups/beans in sauce.
The program began when founder Lena Bassford realized that while some schools provide breakfast programs for students, there are many children who go on little to no food on the weekends. Today, Food4Kids feeds 1,010 children in 44 schools.
Alex Zaccheo, administrative assistant for Food4Kids, says it’s been eye opening to hear and see first-hand how many children in the community go hungry, and how many are still going hungry.
“The reasons vary for hunger, but many that we have come across have been because parents have unexpectedly lost their jobs [or] become sick and can no longer work and the outcome unfortunately leads to not being able to buy or provide food for their families,” she said. “We have a waitlist of 450 children in Hamilton alone that are waiting to become a part of the Food4Kids program.”
The program also provides a summer program along with the weekend one, providing families with bins through the week. The bins provide healthy food items along with recipes that have full ingredient lists, giving the families the opportunity to know what to look for at the food banks when they visit through the year.
“The bins include items to make family recipes such as pasta dishes, chili, soups, etc.,” Zaccheo said. “This allows families to not only make the recipes together, it gives them the opportunity to learn to cook healthy foods and to reuse the recipes.”
The program is in the process of expanding into Brantford and Waterloo to help more children and families in need.
Food4Kids welcomes volunteers to help with their weekly ‘pack nights,’ which involve getting the food bags that will be delivered on Fridays packed and ready to go. In Hamilton alone, they pack for over 1,000 children.
The program also needs volunteers to visit local grocery stores and shop for them.
“We provide cash and/or gift cards to shoppers, scan the weekly flyers for sales and give them 2-3 items to go shopping for and stock up on items that we will use in the following week’s pack,” Zaccheo said. “Volunteers are also welcome to drive on Friday mornings and deliver the food bins to schools.”
To learn more about Food4Kids or sign up to volunteer, visit their website at http://www.food4kidshamilton.ca/.