Fulfilling community nutrition needs; WSD Food Security programSeptember 14, 2023
Winnipeg School Division (WSD) recently organized the second Summer Hamper Program pick-up at R.B. Russell High School on August 24, 2023. The program serves as a crucial response to escalating food insecurity. It ensures children and their families access essential nutrition during the school year and the summer months.
“The Summer Hamper program supports up to 800 families in the July and August months,” said Katherine Armstrong, Community Food Coordinator, Winnipeg School Division.
“Most families who receive hampers are from school communities that disproportionately experience marginalization and food insecurity.”
During summer, this need becomes more pronounced as breakfast and other nutritional programming that serves many children through the division only runs through the school year.
Within the WSD, all schools have the option to request food security support for their families in need. The families who receive hampers have established relationships with the school support teams under programs such as Indigenous education, Newcomer services, Interdivisional student services and more.
“We are newcomers to Canada, and due to COVID and the higher food prices, it is difficult to buy everything we need. The food supplies that we received is really helpful and lasts for around three to four weeks,” said Marcel Batoon, mother of a Grade 6 WSD student studying in Tyndall Park School.
“The summer food hamper has given us an opportunity to live a better lifestyle and our children are getting a variety of food that is more nutritious.”
Many teams and departments across the division come together to make this program happen. Each school site puts together a team to oversee the pick-up and distribution of packed hampers.
The school team picks up a set number of hampers from RB Russell School, which hosts much of the WSD food security efforts. Each school is assigned a 30-minute pick-up window on either the Wednesday or Thursday of the distribution week.
Once the hampers arrive at the school, the team coordinates specific pick-up dates and time with the families in need.
Comprising two large boxes, a family food hamper is divided into non-perishable items like canned vegetables, soup, cereal, pasta, peanut butter, and tinned fish, and fresh and frozen items including two 4L milk cartons, cheese, margarine, yogurt, frozen ham, carrots, potatoes, fruit, and more.
A small team of WSD staff and students packs the hampers. The Summer Hamper Program for 2023 runs twice, with pick-ups in late July and late August.
After COVID, food insecurity has continued to rise, and WSD recognizes a need to extend regular school-year Food Security programming.
The WSD weekly Food Security Program supports over 50 schools and programs with bulk produce and bread from September to June. Each month, an average of 155 x 20 lb. boxes of potatoes, 73 x 5 lb. boxes of onions, and 1,500 loaves of bread and other bakery items are provided to families in need across the division. Other things, such as non-perishables, clothing, and hygiene items, are distributed when available.
These food distribution efforts would not be possible without the support of generous donors such as the Schroeder Foundation, Maple Leaf Foods, Peak of the Market, Second Harvest and other supporters, who enable us to provide perishable and non-perishable items to families in need.