Second Harvest heads back to school!

“We know our kids are hungrier than what the funding can provide. Rescuing food allows us to offer more food to students than we are able to on the budget we have.”

Kelly Dyment is a Teacher/Librarian at Blake Street Junior Public School in Toronto. When she learned about Second Harvest’s platform, she jumped on the opportunity use it to recover food from neighbourhood businesses, which puts more food – and more tasty variety – into the school’s meal programs.

“The kids get very excited about the food,” Kelly says. “Over the past few years, they’ve been used to getting a pretty simple menu. But when they get a fruit or a vegetable that they haven’t seen before, because it’s not something that we can normally afford to buy, they are very willing to try new things.”

While teachers often lead school initiatives such as fresh food recovery, the school community can be a source of enthusiastic food rescue volunteers, as Kelly discovered. “We put out an email to parents and, even in our small school of over 300 students, we have more than a dozen parents and grandparents who are willing to pick up food donations.”

Blake Street Public School also sends flyers out to parents asking them to promote food rescue to local businesses they use, like restaurants and grocery stores. The flyers have information about the environmental impact of keeping good food out of landfill, as well as the impact of food donations on kids in the community.

“I like the contacts that we’ve made. So many of the businesses donating food have been excited to see us and happy to hear that their excess food is going to a school to feed children,” Kelly said. When they learn unsold food which they would typically throw out can be put to good use by a school, some businesses have even offered more. Kelly noted that there are more and more food businesses that are using over the past year which is great news for Blake Street Junior Public School – and the environment.

“If you know you’ve got good food that is going to go to landfill, why not put it in the bellies of people that are hungry in our communities?”

Throughout the school year, Second Harvest also delivers quality, rescued food to children and youth in many after-school programs, such as Believe To Achieve at Jane and Finch, Impact ‘n Communities in Scarborough and several Kiwanis Boys & Girls Clubs. Through your support, we are able to deliver nourishing food every week to help give kids a healthy basis to succeed.

Second Harvest is the sole food source for ArtCity in St. James Town, Canada’s most densely populated community in the heart of Toronto. ArtCity provides children aged 6 to 13 with a positive, respectful space to build skill sets focused on creativity and communication. They offer three no-cost programs after school each week that foster self-esteem, awareness of the community and a sense of belonging, not to mention, wonderful art.

Rescued food also has a powerful impact on what ArtCity can offer with their programs, according to Mekayla Dionne, ArtCity’s Director and Arts Educator. “It really frees up a lot of our budget to not have to be purchasing snacks throughout the year. Receiving Second Harvest rescued food allows us to use that money for other things, like art supplies, paying staff and doing things like field trips. As well, we receive a really nice variety of fruits, vegetables, juice and drinks, as well as some packaged snacks, so the kids are not receiving the same foods each time.”

Mekyla sees first-hand how important food is to the children’s ability to learn. “The kids are coming straight from school to our programs and we don’t know what sort of lunches they’ve had. It’s good that we are able to give them a snack, so that they’re energized and ready to learn and they’re not distracted by feeling hungry.”

“Sometimes when we get an abundance of items from Second Harvest that we might not be able to go through fast enough in the program alone, we’ll offer whatever is extra to the parents,” she says. “They’re always happy to take the extras home with them and they are definitely thankful.”

“Without rescued food from Second Harvest, we would have fewer programs, art supplies and field trips. Donated food definitely helps us to provide more to the kids!”