School Food Program
School Food Program Put on Hold for the 2019–2020 School Year
After a thorough strategic evaluation of Share the Warmth’s program and impact in schools, the Board of Directors along with Share the Warmth staff have made the difficult decision of putting the School Food Program on hold temporarily. We met with participating school boards in the spring and then informed the participating schools of our decision in June 2019, so that they could better plan their needs for the following school year.
Why is the program being put on hiatus?
- The School Food Program’s budget was around $200,000 per year. Except for an allocation for one school representing 5% of our costs, Share the Warmth did not receive any government funding for this program and had to rely entirely on money raised through private donations. This required a considerable effort for the organization, which had to make difficult decisions to preserve and consolidate other components of its mission.
- Over the years, the School Food Program provided up to 20 schools with free healthy meals and snacks. The objective was to ensure that children whose parents could not afford the regular lunch program would get the food they need. However, in recent years, it became increasingly difficult to measure our impact. In many cases schools did not provide sufficient feedback and accountability and we found that schools and school commissions actually had food budgets that were being spent on other food, but not allocated for Share the Warmth.
- While a number of schools ran small fundraising events to support the program in their local schools, such contributions were very small and the program in its current state was no longer sustainable, and put a large financial strain on the organization. Furthermore, many schools were already receiving services from other similar programs or government funding for school food, thereby creating inefficiencies by multiplying the number of providers.
To re-evaluate the program and find more innovative solutions that will have a greater impact on fighting food insecurity with school-aged children, Share the Warmth is an active member of the Cantine pour tous. The mission of this organization is to improve access to healthy food for school-aged children and the elderly by reinforcing the work of organizations who prepare and distribute meals so they can produce more. They are currently working on a pilot project in three Quebec schools where lunches are offered to all children, regardless of the socio-economic background of their families. The pilot projects and the results of these projects will provide food for thought for federal and provincial governments and other stakeholders (school boards, NPO, etc.) for the creation of a universal school food program in Canadian schools.
Share the Warmth is a Good Food Organization since 2015 and a member of the Community Food Centres of Canada (CFCC). For several years, we have been collaborating with the Depot Community Food Centres on various initiatives, namely initiatives dealing with the food supply, access to healthy food for food bank members and the subsidized lunch program in schools. In fall 2019, Share the Warmth, in partnership with the Depot, launched the Boîte à Lunch cooking program in all three Point Saint-Charles schools. This educational, fun program aims to stimulate and develop children’s participation in meal preparation, while teaching them about nutrition and a healthy diet. These workshops address food insecurity with school-aged children by reinforcing participants’ self-confidence and autonomy. We believe that offering this program will help reduce childhood food insecurity in our community, increase autonomy and build skills, leading to healthier lifestyles and diets.