Feeding Our Future program provides free lunches to 40,000 kids at Toronto camps
Underprivileged kids at 17 day camps enjoy free meals
When school broke last summer, many students in Toronto who rely on a free lunch probably wondered where that meal would come from.
Enter Feeding Our Future, a program launched by the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation 15 years ago. It's a summer lunch program that partners with community organizations across Canada to provide free summer lunches to children in need.
125,000 meals this summer
In Toronto, the foundation has joined forces with Second Harvest to drop off nutritious lunches at 17 day camps.
"There's a million children who use lunch programs throughout the year and they're at risk during the summer months when schools are closed," Barry Telford, the president of Sodexo Canada, told CBC News.
Feeding Our Future has donated more than a million lunches since the program began and Telford said it hopes to provide 125,000 lunches to kids across the country this summer.
Debra Lawson, executive director of Second Harvest, says Feeding Our Future fills a critical gap for struggling families.
"Often people don't think about who feeds the children in the summer," she told CBC. "Hunger doesn't take a vacation.
"A lot of them even show up without having breakfast — so by the time this lunch comes around it might be the first meal of the day."
Lawson said that every morning, a group of volunteers gets together in a kitchen and prepares the lunches, which are then picked up and delivered to day camps by her organization.
"If children don't eat, they don't have the ability to think or learn and they certainly don't have the energy to play."
Seeds Of Hope Summer Day Camp, a seven-week program in the Jane and Finch area for children ages six to 13, makes use of the free meals.
"It's pretty satisfying," camper Tainu Cousins said. "My mom's pretty busy and if she can't make me lunch she doesn't have to worry that I'm coming here and will be hungry — I'll actually have something to eat."
"It's a huge part of coming here every day."
No food, no energy
Benjamin Osei, who founded Seeds Of Hope, told CBC his camp offers the lunch early in the day since many of the campers come to the centre without having eaten breakfast.
"Without food, they get grumpy and don't have the energy to participate in the program," he said. "We make sure that nobody goes hungry here."
Lawson said the need for the program is growing.
"We have to take responsibility as a society, [so] that we're constantly nurturing the future."
With files from Marivel Taruc