As food instability increases, the impact on student learning continues to grow in schools across Waterloo Region.
Nutrition for Learning wants to help fill the gap.
To help offset the rising costs of food and increased need, Nutrition for Learning has launched a new fundraising program, Five Dollar Fridays.
Beginning Friday, Nov. 25 to Jan. 6, this initiative focuses on helping people create impactful habits for the new year by making a one-time or monthly donation of $5.
Nutrition for Learning works to bring awareness with the fundraising initiative, to create meaningful conversation about food instability, how it affects the ability to learn, and actions people can take to assist the most vulnerable populations.
The registered charitable organization says that the healthy food programs impact the physical, cognitive, behavioral, and academic needs of children and youth throughout Waterloo Region.
Established in 1997, Nutrition for Learning supports over 150 student programs within the Waterloo Region District School Board, the Waterloo Region Catholic District School Board, and the French Language Public School Board.
With over 93 schools currently taking part in programming across the region, and Erin Moraghan, interim executive director at Nutrition for Learning, says the need is big.
“We are now a couple months into the school year. We did forecast that the need would be big and that food costs would be increased this year. This is no secret to any of us. We are all feeling the same pinch at the check out,” Moraghan said.
“We are seeing such an increase in need at the school level. With the heat coming on in the cold weather, it truly is, for a lot of families right now, a deal breaker between packing the lunch box, or paying the heat bill. There’s a lot of people in our community who are in that position.”
Based on the first two months of the 2022/23 school year, Nutrition for Learning is seeing an increase of over 50 per cent in food costs for the program, and is trending toward a 20 per cent increase in overall need.
“Our thought is that with Back Friday coming up, and knowing that the average Canadian spends about $300 online on that day, could we not all rally together and give as little as $5, whether it’s a simple one-time gift, or signing up and giving us $5 monthly?” Moraghan said.
“I think it’s an easy way to remember that if we are spending, a little goes a long way when we rally together, as a community. $5 is enough to provide a meal for two students, so it goes along way.”
Schools order food from Nutrition for Learning and then the organization delivers it.
Moraghan says each school has different needs.
“They order, and we deliver. We can also customize their programs. Our job is to provide the best possible value for the schools so that they are able to get the biggest bang for their buck,” Moraghan said.
“Hunger can be invisible as well as homelessness, so having conversations, and opening our hearts and minds to the reality of the need here in Waterloo Region, that’s the first piece.”
Moraghan says that the well-being and future of any community lies with the younger population.
“We need to show young people that we want them to have a fair playing field. This provides a launching pad for many different opportunities. Supporting our young people is a simple thing. Every little dollar makes a big impact," Moraghan said.
We’ve been doing this for over 25 years. It’s been amazing to see the ways in which parents, schools, and communities at large, have stepped up to support Nutrition for Learning. We owe the community a huge thank you."
Moraghan says it is fundamental that everyone should have food when they are trying to learn.
It’s a simple mission,” she said.
“And we are blessed to have the support that we have.”
For more information about Nutrition for Learning and $5 Fridays, visit here.