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Rising food insecurity prompts new program to feed 5,600 students in Barrie area

As more families struggle to put food on the table, the Barrie Food Bank has launched a new program to ensure all children can access healthy food at school.

The food bank is starting the School Fuel program with the help of the School Nutrition Council of Ontario and The Pavlik Foundation.

The new initiative aims to ensure all school-aged children in Barrie have access to healthy snack foods at school.

It comes at a time when the Barrie Food Bank continues to see record-breaking demand for its services, with 7,205 accessing their services in January, of which 2,255 were under 18.

“We believe that no child should have to face the day on an empty stomach. The School Fuel program is our way of helping to ensure children in Barrie have access to a nutritious food, setting the stage for a day filled with learning and growth,” said Sharon Palmer, the food bank’s executive director.

In January the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit called food insecurity an “urgent and worsening public health problem,” with one to five households struggling to afford food.

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The program states that studies have shown that when children go to school hungry, it profoundly impacts their energy levels, concentration, creativity, and behaviour.

Through the program, participating schools will have the ability selection the different options they want for their students from a selection of nutritional options like fruits and whole grains.

“I really like the menu and the delivery. Last year, I had to go out shopping every week. This is way more efficient. I don’t have to search up the nutritional values of everything. It is super convenient, and the ordering platform is easy to use,” said Leslie Marherrison, vice principal at Emma King Elementary School.

The program now supports over 5,600 children in 22 local schools within four different school boards.

Barrie Food Bank manages the logistics for the program locally, including ordering, procuring, and delivering to the participating schools.

“We are thrilled to support the School Fuel program in partnership with Barrie Food Bank and the Student Nutrition Counsel. By investing in the well-being and education of our community’s children, we are fostering a brighter future for the next generation,” said Sarah Pavlik from The Pavlik Foundation.

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