One of Woolwich Community Services’ most popular programs will mark three years next month.
Started in 2013, the Lunch Crunch program helped 157 children last year by providing lunches and snacks for school. The Lunch Crunch hamper follows the Canada Food Guide, providing fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, and meat or a meat alternative.
“What we have found is because of the Lunch Crunch program people don’t need the monthly hamper because the fresh fruits and vegetables and lunch was actually their biggest challenge,” says WCS’s director of community support, Kelly Christie.
“The family outreach worker has often noticed she used the food hamper program as a food cupboard to supplement and she’s found that that’s dropped right off too with the Lunch Crunch program.”
Lunch Crunch has been sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada for the past two years. In its inaugural year it was funded by United Steel Workers Local 13691, representing Trylon TSF and Chemtura in Elmira, and by Trylon.
“That’s been fabulous,” Christie says of the donations.
Originally it cost $3,200 to run, but it’s increased due to more people using it and the price of groceries going up, especially for fresh produce.
“We’re quite careful in the sense of we always shop the specials, buy what’s on sale, but the quantity has certainly increased,” Christie said.
A local egg farmer donates to the food bank and increased their donation in order to contribute to the Lunch Crunch program as well.
While some schools offer free breakfast, she notes it’s hard to get children out to breakfast programs, especially when you live rurally. If they have the foods to make at home there’s not that rush getting the kids out the door, trying to get to a breakfast program. Plus, providing food for a lunch seems to be the real problem, instead of breakfast.
“It was just a program that meeting people through the food bank, a couple times I had heard that the kids didn’t go to school that day because they didn’t have any food. And I thought ‘wow, that really does happen.’ That’s when we sought out some funding and then started the Lunch Crunch program and it was very successful from day one and meeting a lot of family needs,” Christie said.
She says kids can’t go home for lunch breaks anymore so they need to pack enough food for their lunch and two nutrition breaks. WCS looked at the Canada Food Guide and decided each child partaking in the Lunch Crunch program would get two fruit servings, one vegetable serving, one grain and a protein for their lunch.
“There’s a difference between serving your supper meal and what you’re going to take to school in your lunch. If they didn’t have any bread, nothing for a sandwich, that kind of thing, it was just a challenge, as they didn’t have lunch, something they could send. Maybe they didn’t have a thermos for the soup,” Christie explains why some parents struggled to send their kids to school with proper lunches.
She notes some kids might not eat the broccoli or cauliflower provided to them through the program for lunch, but if their parents put it in homemade soup or serve it with dinner, it doesn’t matter as long as they’re getting those vegetables somewhere.
“This is a program that families really appreciate. It’s really making a difference,” Christie said.
WCS is also still accepting donations for their Christmas Goodwill program until Dec. 11.