Eating healthy and nutritious meals every day is essential for children and youth. A well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and healthy fat nourishes and fuels their growing minds and bodies. Plus, it sets a lifetime of good habits early on.
In 2021 in Canada, 1 in 5 children lived in food-insecure households. That is 1.4 million children and youth under 18 in Canada’s ten southernmost provinces who experience some level of food insecurity.
Millions of children and youth rely on school nutrition programs during the school year. In Toronto, for example, more than 200,000 kids participate in daily Student Nutrition Programs run by thousands of volunteers. The Breakfast Club of Canada feeds more than 580,000 children in 3,500+ school nutrition programs each morning. They do this to help ensure that all children are well-fed and thus have an equal chance to learn and thrive.
What happens in the summer when school food programming ends? How do we ensure that food insecure children and youth get the daily nutrition they need and deserve?
Feeding Our Future: Canada’s Free Summer Food Program for Kids
Second Harvest launched Feeding Our Future in 2012 to tackle summer hunger by providing healthy food and resource kits to agencies that run summer programs for kids in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Since then, the program has grown to become Canada’s largest free summer lunch program.
In 2022, Second Harvest partnered with 32 agencies in the GTA that host summer camps or offer free lunch pickups for children and youth. The communities served through this program are situated in what the City of Toronto describes as Neighbourhood Improvement Areas. They are highlighted by their need for support to improve social, economic and physical conditions. For instance, the North York Centre for Spanish Speaking Peoples and several neighbourhood Boys and Girls Clubs that run kids’ summer camps participate in the Feeding Our Future program.
Last year, we supported 2,500+ children and youth at camps with food and resources in the summer. This year, we had requests to support more than 6,000. This growth in demand speaks volumes about the growing level of food insecurity in our community.
In the summer of 2022, with the generosity of 222 volunteers donating more than 885 hours, Feeding Our Future produced and distributed more than 16,000 food and resource kits. This year, the program has supported more than 5,500 children and youth in the GTA. While the demand for healthy food persists, these nutrition-packed kits made a world of difference, ensuring that many kids had the energy and nourishment needed to learn and play and that families don’t have to choose between food or rent this summer.
Breaking the Cycle of Summer Hunger for Kids in Canada
“The kits have been helpful in breaking the cycle of hunger, in addition to the learning around clean and healthy food. Week after week, our program participants continue to express heartfelt appreciation for this kindness expressed by Second Harvest and all the donors and funders of Feeding Our Future program. With our hearts full of gratitude.”
—Lady Ballers Camp
Feeding Kids Healthy Food in the Summer Thanks to Donors
Each kit includes a rotating fruit component, vegetable, grain, protein, snack and beverage—plus something fun for the kids as a recreational item. Most of these items were purchased by Second Harvest or donated by some of our generous donors.
This program would not be possible without the support and generosity of financial supporters, in-kind donors who donated food and recreational items for the kits, hundreds of volunteers and our agency partners working on the ground in communities across the GTA.
A special thank you to all of our Feeding Our Future donors:
- Blue Triton
- Buddha Brands
- Frontier College
- Mastermind Toys
- Nature’s Path Organic
- Penguin Random House
- Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
- Green Shield Insurance
- Loyalty One
- Marner Assist Foundation
- The Otto and Marie Pick Charitable Foundation
Words of Kindness From Feeding Our Future Agency Partners
“Parents are very thankful for the program as it has helped to offset the cost of feeding the children while at home.”
—Rhema Food Bank
“The program reflects the strength and impact of community partnerships to help marginalized communities dealing with food security issues.”
—Toronto Central SDA
“Participating in this program has been great and has allowed us to reach a new youth audience that we haven’t been able to engage in our catchment area.”
—Toronto Centre for Learning and Development
“We are immensely happy and thankful to Second Harvest for allowing us to be part of this program. The MLMIF has been able to help low-income families with children every week thanks to the contributions provided by Second Harvest.”
—Maria Luisa de Moreno International Foundation (MLMIF)
“Everything has been great. A lot of our children arrive with snacks that are not sufficient or not very nutritious so it’s great to be able to offer additional snacks to keep them fuelled up with healthy food!”
—BGC Toronto Kiwanis (St. Mary Site)