August 13, 2020
 
 
A Rotary District Matching Grant of US$8,000 is going to help Food4Kids Guelph with the purchase of grocery gift cards being mailed to families needing help during these Covid times.
 
All four Rotary Clubs in Guelph are chipping in $1,000 each that will be matched by a Grant from our Rotary District 7080.
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This weekend food bag program was started by Guelph Rotarians in 2018 after a guest speaker at a weekly Rotary meeting reported that quite a few local children from severely food-insecure homes go hungry at weekends. It was explained to Rotarians that most children can generally get something to eat at school from Monday to Friday, but weekends can be a struggle for some of them who go home to empty cupboards and fridges. 
 
In Guelph? we asked ourselves.
 
Yes, in Guelph. Research indicated that some 500 elementary school children in Guelph live in homes that are struggling to make ends meet, to the extent that food is often in short supply. 
 
The four Rotary Clubs in Guelph decided that something had to be done about this to support children in our neighbourhood. Each club contributed "seed money" to help fund a pilot project, and volunteers from all four clubs rolled up their sleeves. It was the first time ever that all four clubs in Guelph worked on the same project together. This collaboration has been highly successful, enhancing Rotary friendships and collaboration in other ways, too.
 
Children registered in the program are enrolled by their schools, with parental permission, of course. A food bag is provided for each elementary school child in the household, as well as pre-school siblings from age one. Food4Kids volunteers pack the weekend food bags on a Thursday and deliver them to participating schools on Friday morning. At school, teachers discreetly hand out the weekend food bags to the children to take home with them.
 
In March 2020, when schools suddenly closed due to Covid-19, it meant that Food4Kids could not deliver weekend food bags to the children through their schools. The charity immediately pivoted to mailing grocery gift cards to the families to help them purchase food. Furthermore, with so many families finding themselves in even more dire straits than before, it was decided to continue mailing gift cards to them throughout the summer months as well. This ate into the charity's carefully saved funds set aside for the following school year.  
 
This Rotary District Grant will help  to offset the unexpected expenses of these grocery gift cards, and put Food4Kids Guelph back on track to expand the program up to 300 children in the next school year, and further reduce the waiting list for this program.
 
When Guelph schools re-open in September, the school boards will strictly (and understandably) limit access to school buildings to students, staff and emergency personnel ONLY. That means we will not be able to deliver food bags through the schools until the Covid situation eases, so Food4Kids will continue mailing grocery gift cards in the meantime. 
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