Kelly-Sue Oberle, Food4Kids Waterloo Wellington
Food4Kids Guelph & Tom Armitage, The SEED
Introduction – Terrie Jarvis
Today’s presentation on Food4Kids Guelph showed the power of Rotary getting behind a mission – in this case, a solution to the problem of local school children going hungry at weekends. As Terrie said in her introduction of the speakers, “When FOUR Rotary Clubs join forces … pure magic happens.” She added: “Today you’re going to hear how a wonderful community partnership has developed to bring the outstanding Food4Kids program to Guelph. As Rotarians, we are proud to be a part of it.” She warmly welcomed Kelly-Sue Oberle, Executive Director of Food4Kids Waterloo Wellington, and Tom Armitage from The SEED program.
Kelly-Sue expressed pleasure at the large turnout of Rotarians, supporters, partners and community members at the meeting. She was especially touched that her friend, Lena Bassford, the founder of Food4Kids, was also in attendance. Above all, Kelly-Sue repeated how amazed she was at the power of Rotary, and how appreciative she was of Rotary’s support in bringing the Food4Kids program to Guelph.
She proceeded to explain the problem faced by children living in severely food-insecure families, where there is no typical kid “grazing” at home after school or at weekends, because cupboards and refrigerators are often bare.
The lack of food in the home is not because parents don’t care, but because many families are struggling to make ends meet and even to keep a roof over their heads. Poverty also destroys self-esteem, hope and energy, and hunger makes a difficult situation worse for everyone in the home.
Kelly-Sue explained her lengthy experience (similar to Lena’s) in school nutrition programs, providing food to children at schools from Monday to Friday.
The big question always was: what do the children eat at weekends, if there is little or no food at home? Six years ago, Lena started the program called Food4Kids in Hamilton to address this weekend food issue, which has since expanded to also cover Halton and Brant-Haldimand, serving 1700 children per weekend. In 2016, Lena persuaded Kelly-Sue to start up Food4Kids in Waterloo Wellington.
A startling statistic is that only about 25% of families in need of food support actually go to food banks and food pantries. Stigma is only one of the challenges. The overriding issue is lack of ACCESS to food banks because families often don’t have a car, have to pay for a taxi to get to and from a food bank, take unpaid time off work to reach food banks during their limited hours of operation, etc.
The Food4Kids program addresses both access and stigma. Food bags for the children, containing 16-20 items are delivered directly to the children’s schools, where their teachers discreetly place their food bags into their backpacks before they go home for the weekend.
The children in most need of this weekend food support are identified and registered in the program by their schools, with parental permission. Cooperation with the local School Board is essential and gratefully received.
When one child in a family is identified as needing weekend food, part of the registration process is to identify all other siblings in the home who are 14 years and younger, and each child then receives their own weekend food bag as well. This helps whole families.
Food4Kids Waterloo Wellington launched in late 2016, in Kelly-Sue’s dining room at home. As it grew, the charity’s operations moved into a small industrial office and then moved again into a 1,400 square foot premise at a senior citizens’ residence in Kitchener. In 18 months, the Kitchener-based operation has grown to support 340 children per weekend, with a lengthy waiting list of students and schools.
Food4Kids Guelph-Wellington-Dufferin (GWD) is a semi-independent satellite operation under the auspices of the Food4Kids Waterloo Wellington charity. A pilot program is currently being run in Guelph delivering weekend food bags to 41 children at three different elementary schools. In Guelph, too, there is already a waiting list of students and schools wanting to join the program. It’s estimated that about 1,500 children in our school district experience severe food insecurity at home.
The Guelph program hopes to double to 90 children in the next school year, serving more schools, but it depends on the funds raised. It costs $10 per child per weekend, or $400 per child per school year. As a sustainable strategy, the program will only take on additional children once the money is already in the bank, so fundraising is key.
While the four Rotary Clubs of Guelph provided the necessary start-up funding to bring Food4Kids into Guelph, and local Rotarians are providing active (and much appreciated) hands-on support in running the Guelph program, a call is also being made to ALL Rotarians to become active Food4Kids ambassadors, to help spread the word, and to encourage donations at www. food4kidsww.ca/gwd/donate-now.
Tom Armitage – Guelph Community Health Centre
Tom stepped forward to explain their program called The SEED, which aims to make fresh produce more accessible to food-insecure members of the community. With their three-pronged strategy of food access, food literacy and food advocacy, The SEED saw a perfect fit with Food4Kids and immediately offered operational support, including free use of their warehouse and walk-in cold room, and of course, the procurement of fresh produce for the childrens’ weekend food bags. Food4Kids and the four Rotary Clubs of Guelph are enormously pleased to have formed this collaboration with The SEED.
Thank you – Paul Truex
Paul Truex rose to thank Kelly-Sue and Tom for their wonderful presentations. He further commented on his personal delight in the joint cooperation of all four Rotary Clubs of Guelph. Paul reminisced how one Rotarian in one club was responsible for starting what became the global Polio Plus campaign to eradicate polio, with Rotarians around the world getting behind it. Paul hopes that Rotarians around the world will also get behind the cause of feeding hungry children, as a global Rotary mission to make the world a better place.
Frederick Funk, Guest of Justin Funk
Mary Murphy, Guest of Ab Moore
Domingo Bernal, Guest of Sue Ricketts
Yvonne Pietrobon, Guest of Reny Pietrobon
Barb Gamsby, Guest of Reny Pietrobon
Mary Taylor, Guest of Ruth Hatcher
Linda Craig, Guest of Richard Broadwith
SPECIAL PROGRAM GUESTS
Andrew Reimer, Ontario Student Nutrition Services
Lena Bassford, Food4kids Hamilton
Raechelle Devereaux, Guelph Community Health centre
Chris Morton, Intrigue Media
Chris Baginski-Hansen, 2nd. Chance Employment Counselling
Beth Burns, John F. Ross
Frank Scott, Guelph Wellington
Donna Graham, Guelph Trillium
Gary Slater, Upper Grand District School Board
Tim Yawney, Wellington Catholic School Board
Hazel Dickie Guelph South
Ann Caine Guelph South
Lloyd Longfield Honorary Rotarian
Liz Sandals Honorary Rotarian
Paul asked all the committees that “like to spend money or raise money” to “pay attention”. As incoming president, he noted that budgets have to be submitted much earlier than usual. This year, Paul would like all budgets in by June 1st, with a little bit of “wiggle room”. The expedited planning process means that money will also be approved sooner. The new timeline also makes our treasurer Trevor Lee very happy.
On behalf of Michele Richardson and a committee that “raises money”, Marva put out a call for volunteers for Canada Day. The big push will start soon and there are lots of opportunities to sign up and help out. Marva also contributed a $5 “sad buck” and asked the club to consider upgrading the sound system so that it is more reliable and user friendly. Finally, she reminded host and participants in the “Guess who’s coming to dinner” to look for email instructions.
Justin & Fred Funk
With a special assist from a very stylishly dressed young guest, Justin celebrated Tom Funk’s birthday with a happy buck contribution of $7.50 that didn’t exactly reveal Tom’s age but made guessing fairly easy.
Rick pitched in a happy buck to mark his first “official” duty as a Rotarian when he presented student Max DeWaele with an Indigenous Youth Award on behalf of our club.
Dave thanked all those who participated in our club’s 11th annual tree planting event, which unlike in other years, benefitted from great weather. Only 2 more years to go until the 2020 culmination of the project. There were over 2,000 trees and 700 wildflowers planted on Saturday and high school students planted a further 1,200 trees. Dave also thanked Bob Housser and his team, and Lakeside Church for their support.
Sue contributed a “buck n’ half” for the approval of the dairy project in India which helped 75 families get their own milk cow. The district had to contribute additional money over the original budget but in the end, an extra 3-4 families will also benefit from their dairy cows.
Looking sharp, Chris thanked a fellow Rotarian (Mahmud Hassain) who helped him refresh his wardrobe in time for his 4 board meetings in less than 24 hours. He also noted that Rotarians seem to be everywhere.
Our MP and honorary member is celebrating his 40th wedding anniversary and joked that he thought that his wife would enjoy a certificate from their member of parliament or dinner in the parliament cafeteria. His staff wisely talked him into purchasing a more personal gift.
What was supposed to be a non-curling announcement did in fact mention curling! Jim had just returned from Scotland where he curled with Helmuth Slisarenko and other Rotarians. Having been with his granddaughters at a wedding in Ottawa, he was flying back to Scotland this week.
The SAA used 2 “beer pong” games as props to discuss the “guess who’s coming to dinner” program and the rash of last minute cancellations. She then proceeded to fine Helmuth Slisarenko who pleaded his case to no avail. She also congratulated Tom Funk and mentioned that when she saw his photo on Facebook, she momentarily thought she was on Tinder and swept right repeatedly. (Ed. Intriguing) Finally, she proudly displayed her very official looking Sergeant-at-arms ribbon while bemoaning the fact that it was much too large.
The 50/50 draw this week was won by Tim Mau
Ruth Thatcher, April 22nd – 13 years
Lynn McCurdy [BHENY Project creator] April 22
Brian Martin [Literacy committee chair] April 23
Tom Funk [membership coordinator extraordinaire] April 27