Charity says demand for program that provides food to summer camps for kids outpacing supply
'Need for food has grown exponentially as a result of COVID,' says Second Harvest CEO
A Canadian charity says it will not be able to meet the demand for food needed by Toronto summer camps for children and youth this year that it provides through its free summer lunch program.
Lori Nikkel, CEO of Second Harvest, a food rescue organization and an expert in perishable food recovery, said on Sunday that demand for its Feeding Our Future program this year outstrips supply.
"The number of children and youth that need food this summer has far surpassed what we are able to give," Nikkel said.
Through the annual program, Second Harvest supported about 2,000 children and youth at camps with food and resources last summer. This summer, it has requests to support more than 6,000 children and youth, but will be only able to support 5,000, she said.
"But even the children we are supporting, we can't support with the amount of food or resources that they have requested," she said.
Nikkel said a number of factors are contributing to the problem, including supply chain issues, an increase in fuel costs that affects transportation of food, an increase in food costs, an impending recession, plus the Russian war in Ukraine and a drop in donations.
"All of these together are creating this huge, huge imbalance resulting in a lack of food while the need for food has grown exponentially as a result of COVID. There's simply not enough good food yet more people than ever are needing it," she said.
Second Harvest says it recovers food that is redirected to charity and non-profit organizations, ensuring people have access to the healthy food they need.
Chris Penrose, executive director of Lay-Up Youth Basketball, a citywide basketball program for children and youth aged 6 to 14 in Toronto, said Lay-Up has launched a campaign this week to raise funds for snacks and lunches that it will provide to all of its participants. Lay-Up, which started in 2013, is offered in vulnerable communities.
The campaign, the goal of which is $50,000, is called "Food for Hoopers: A Full Court Press for a Nutritious Summer." Lay-Up will have 240 participants in its full day programs this summer. It has received 550 applications for the program.
"Before COVID, we would run summer programs and we would partner with food security organizations and non-profits that were helping us to provide healthy, nutritious lunch and snacks," Penrose said.
"Now, 2022, everyone is expecting this amazing return to in-person programming, but we didn't foresee as a city is that with the rising costs of food, we've seen food bank demand grow and insecurity around food growing and people who never thought they would have trouble putting food on the table now needing help," he said.
"Those food security organizations are no longer able to help programs like ours provide the lunches and snacks to kids. We have a huge gap. Now we're trying to figure out ways to fill that gap."
Penrose said he believes other organizations that run summer programs for children and youth are facing the same problem.