Winnipeg Harvest school breakfast program helps feed kids on weekends; Harvesting Hope raises $76,360 so far
More than 26,000 children each month rely on food banks in Manitoba
To donate to Winnipeg Harvest during CBC Manitoba's annual Harvesting Hope radiothon, please visit the Winnipeg Harvest website and select Harvesting Hope Radiothon in the drop-down menu.
As of Sunday evening, the donation total is $76,360.
Weekends typically mean a break from school stress, but for a lot of Winnipeg kids, the worry turns to something else: filling their stomachs.
Winnipeg Harvest staff say 41 per cent of food bank users in Manitoba are kids. That means more than 26,000 children use the food bank each month, many of whom sit in school and try to concentrate while hungry.
To address that, many schools in the city have breakfast programs before class begins for the day.
But when the weekend hits, those kids have empty plates.
To bridge the gap between Friday and Monday, Winnipeg Harvest has launched a new program, Breakfast2Go, which is being piloted at Mulvey elementary school in the Wolseley neighbourhood.
Every Friday, students will have the option of taking home two breakfast packages for the weekend, and the meals require little to no adult supervision to prepare.
"There's milk, there's yogurt, there's also apples, cheese strings, Fruit to Go and Goldfish and oatmeal," said Brooklyn Heinrichs, a Grade 4 student at Mulvey who helps distribute the packages to classrooms.
The program launched the second week of November and since then, nearly 1,800 breakfast packages have gone home with kids.
In addition to the ingredients Heinrichs listed, the packages consider dietary needs such as keeping halal and gluten intolerance, depending on the child.
Principal Peter Correia said the program is a made-in-Manitoba idea that came from nurse practitioner Parusia Purohit.
"She knows the importance of good nutrition for growing bodies so it was her brainchild. She approached [Winnipeg] Harvest and the Breakfast Clubs of Canada and Winnipeg School Division and here we are today," he said.
"This really helps supplement what we do here on the weekdays.… Every morning at 8:30 a.m., we serve over 150 students, rotating them through three breakfast servings.
"It gets the kids ready and fuelled up for school and their behaviours and their focus increases."
The school's total student population is about 370.
Along with the food, each breakfast package has a note inside with affirmational phrases such as "I believe in me," or "I accept myself even though I sometimes make mistakes," or "Every day in every way, I get better and better."
"They say nice things about you when you're feeling sad," said Heinrichs.
This really helps supplement what we do here on the weekdays.… Every morning at 8:30 a.m. we serve over 150 students, rotating them through three breakfast servings- Mulvey principal Peter Correia
"We want the students to know they are valued citizens of our community. I see it so I just want them to know," said Correia. "These are self-affirmation notes done by students in other schools and brought to ours."
Canada is the only G7 country without a national school food program and Winnipeg Harvest currently works with 130 meal and snack programs in schools and youth organizations, as well as with 46 daycares.
If the Breakfast2Go program is deemed successful, Winnipeg Harvest and Breakfast Clubs of Canada hope to extend it to more schools in the city.
CBC Manitoba's annual weekend-long radiothon, Harvesting Hope, kicks off Friday morning.
The charity drive in support of local food banks offers up a day full of live performances by local musicians and stories from people who have used food banks in the past.
Last year, the radiothon brought in just over $112,000, while more than $170,000 was raised in 2016.
All proceeds from the event go to Winnipeg Harvest, which provides more than 11 million pounds of nutritious food and grocery items to Manitobans every year.
You can also catch the live performances by tuning in to CBC Radio One at 89.3 FM, watching CBC Winnipeg News at 6 p.m. or joining in online.
Follow along on social media using the hashtag #CBCHarvestHope.
If you'd rather donate in kind, you can drop off food items at Winnipeg Harvest at 1085 Winnipeg Ave. off McPhillips Street or in the designated bin at some city grocery stores.
Harvest's top 5 most-needed items:
- Canned protein — tuna, chicken, beans.
- Canned fruit.
- Canned vegetables.
- Canned soups.