School buildings and student programming sites have become more than just a destination for children and youth to socialize and engage in learning; amongst the many other roles these sites play in our communities, for many children they have also become an important source of nutritious food. To ensure students maintain safe accessibility to healthy food regardless of school closures or location of learning, and in response to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, Upper Canada Leger Centre for Education & Training (UCLCET) diverted an additional $40,000 to local Food Banks during the holiday season, to be provided to families with school-age children.
UCLCET is a community-focused organization that seeks to find innovative ways to spearhead unique projects supporting education, diversity, health and well-being in Eastern Ontario. It administers and distributes funding for breakfast and snack programs in over 225 schools and youth agencies throughout the counties of Prescott Russell, Stormont Dundas & Glengarry, Leeds & Grenville and Renfrew. In typical times, healthy food is offered by these programs at no cost to students through food bins, buffet settings, or student self-preparation areas. This program is supported by the provincial Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, among other funding partners, food producers and distributors, and is made possible by the dedicated service of several hundred volunteers.
“Student nutrition programs offered throughout our regions serve more than 6,824,000 meals to over 46,000 students every year,” Matthew Raby, UCLCET Executive Director noted. “Traditional service models have been adjusted this year to make sure nutritious foods can still be provided to students while ensuring every safety precaution is taken. The partnership with local Food Banks helps to ensure we can continue reaching students, regardless of where they are learning.”
Food is being distributed throughout the regions that UCLCET serves through student nutrition programming, to every food bank that is certified by the Feed Ontario partnership.
“Local food banks will always play a vital role in our communities to ensure families remain food secure,” explains Jennifer Cuillerier, UCLCET Student Nutrition Program Manager. “We are so thankful for the generosity of our funding partners, food producers, and distributors. Through the well-established service and delivery models and standards established by Feed Ontario, we know that our food banks will be in position to provide healthy food to families with school-age children and youth in our communities at this time.”