Summer Lunch Program Ensures kids in Lindsay Get a Healthy Mid-Day Meal

by Caroline Franks
Categories: Divisional News

Food insecurity continues to be impacting individuals and families across the province, and The Salvation Army in Ontario remains an innovative partner to help bring an end to empty bellies.

Children should never have to go hungry, so The Salvation Army and its partners in Lindsay are bringing lunch right to the neighbourhoods where they are needed the most.

Providing free lunches to children continues this year with the Summer Lunch Program, which handed out 328 meals last year. The program, which started June 16 and runs until August 20, brings lunch to school children every Wednesday and Friday at two grade schools in Lindsay.

All elementary aged children are welcome to pick up a free, healthy and nutritious lunch, no questions asked. Each meal contains a sandwich or wrap, fruit and vegetables, cheese, or yogurt and a healthy baked good.

“This year we started with 24 lunches per week, but we have increased that to 30 per week to meet demand. Each week, as children and parents learn of the program, the number increases. Last year we ended up averaging 48 lunches,” said Janet Rodin, Community Ministries Coordinator at The Salvation Army Community Church in Lindsay.

Statistics from 2020 indicate that 13.1 percent of households in the City of Kawartha Lakes are considered low-income. Children from birth to age 17 make up 16.5 per cent of people living in a low-income household, compared to 13.2 per cent of adults aged 18-64 and 10.7 per cent of adults over age 65.

“Usually, we are serving meals at six or seven locations, but due to COVID-19 restrictions we are only serving at two locations. The two schools were chosen because households in the surrounding neighbourhoods are known to have more children, on average, and are home to families receiving social assistance or are considered low-income,” Rodin said.

Each meal costs $2.30 to make, so financial support or donations of food items are being accepted to ensure no child goes hungry. Donations can be made by contacting The Salvation Army Community Church or Kawartha Lakes Food Source. Donations of apples, bananas, oranges, unsweetened food cups, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, cheese strings, yogurt tubes, cheese, eggs, ground beef, deli meat, mayonnaise, chocolate chips and jam are needed.

Rodin said the demand for meals is having a major impact in reducing the number of children going hungry in the community.

“Some children are waiting at the school when the volunteers arrive, so they can guarantee they get lunch. Children have said they like the food they receive, and parents have expressed gratitude that they do not have to figure out how to provide lunch on distribution days,” Rodin said. “There are some children that attend every Wednesday and Friday all summer long. Some children ask for two lunches on Friday so they know they will have something to eat on Saturday.”

All the meals are prepared in The Salvation Army kitchen and a summer student, Megan Brohm, is on board this year to coordinate the program and distribute the lunches at the two locations. Social distancing rules and other pandemic safety protocols are in place at the schools. Any leftover meals are brought to A Place Called Home, a 19-bed family shelter founded in downtown Lindsay in 1995.

“It’s fun and busy but very rewarding because I enjoy meeting the children that I’m supporting and I am grateful to be out in the community helping others and interacting with people,” Brohm said.

The Summer Lunch Program began in 2018 when several agencies, including The Salvation Army, Kawartha Lakes Food Source, Kawartha Lakes Food Coalition and the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Public Health Unit joined forces to keep children from going hungry during the summer months.

By Chris McGregor