Children & Youth Committee at Rotary Club of Guelph
FOOD4KIDS GUELPH
 
Food4Kids Guelph is a Rotary-inspired charity. 
 
THE PROGRAM
 
 
This belief is at the very heart of what drives Food4Kids.
 
When families are struggling to make ends meet, even for basic needs such as providing adequate food for their children, community support makes a world of difference. 
 
During school terms, the Food4Kids Guelph program provides weekend food bags for children from severely food-insecure homes. The children's families are referred to Food4Kids by their schools. The goal is to close the weekend gap for the children who absolutely depend on getting some food at school Monday to Friday but are known to struggle through weekends when they go home to sparse cupboards and fridges. Food4Kids delivers nutritious food bags to their schools on a Friday, where staff discreetly hand out the food bags to be taken home for the weekend. An individual food bag is provided for each elementary school age child (approx. 4-14 years old) in the household. 
 
When schools are closed (school holidays or COVID closures), Food4Kids Guelph mails grocery gift cards to families to help with their purchase of food. 
 
 
HOW THIS PROGRAM BEGAN AT ROTARY
 
In 2017, a speaker at a Rotary Club of Guelph meeting described the weekend food gap suffered by some children in our midst. In fact, it was estimated that some 500 local children face this challenge for insufficient food on weekends. We were shocked and very concerned to learn about this problem.  ("In Guelph??")  Several Rotarians decided to seek out and support whichever groups in Guelph were addressing this problem, with the intention of getting Rotary behind them. After finding that NO ONE in Guelph was addressing this weekend food issue for children, it was felt that “someone” had to do "something" about it - and that ended being Rotary. The project began with a handful of committed Rotary volunteers plus start-up funding provided by the Rotary Clubs of Guelph.
 
Collaboration by all four Guelph Rotary Clubs on this single, major project was a 'first' in almost 100 years of Rotary in Guelph. Fortunately, it was mentored by Paul Truex Senior, who brought credibility and wisdom to the project. This cross-club cooperation has since opened the door to many additional cross-club cooperations as well!
 
Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, the Rotary volunteers found an amazing program called FOOD4KIDS that had started in Hamilton, Ontario in 2012 and had since spread to other nearby communities. A Food4Kids program was already running in Kitchener-Waterloo and that team was willing to help our Guelph volunteers get started locally.  
 
A 15-week pilot program began in Spring 2018. It was highly successful and the ongoing program of today launched in earnest in September 2018, growing each year to the present school year of 2022-23, where the program is now supporting some 400 children at 30 out of the 39 local elementary schools.
 
At a cost of around $1,000 per year per child, and with no government funding, it has become a tall order for our small charity to run this program. We are primarily volunteer-run with only one employee, our young Program Manager, Brittany Skelton. We share best practices with Food4Kids agencies in other cities, and are fortunate to receive occasional funding from Food4Kids Ontario. Many of the key volunteers in this charity are still Rotarians, delivering Service Above Self.
 
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