Newspaper article The Canadian Press

When School's out, Many Children Go Hungry; Summer Lunch Program Plugs Gap

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

When School's out, Many Children Go Hungry; Summer Lunch Program Plugs Gap

Article excerpt

When school's out, many children go hungry

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TORONTO - Some kids across Canada aren't eager to hear that final bell signalling school's out for the summer. They'd rather stay in school because it means they get at least one nutritious meal a day, says chef Michael Smith.

The end of school means the end of the school lunch program for many children from low-income families.

"And this is a big part of going to school for a lot of kids in Canada is that lunch program, getting that good healthy nutritious lunch every day," Smith said.

Each month, close to 900,000 Canadians are assisted by food banks, and 38 per cent of those helped are children and youth, according to the Food Banks Canada website.

But a summer lunch program called Feeding Our Future, established by the Sodexo Foundation in 2000, partners with community hunger relief organizations to provide free summer lunches to children in need. Smith, who's well known for hosting such Food Network Canada programs as "Chef Michael's Kitchen," "Chef Abroad" and the "Chef at Home" series, as well as authoring several cookbooks, has been involved for about a half-dozen years with the program.

The initiative was launched in Toronto with support from the kitchen of a Sodexo client and the food rescue program Second Harvest and has expanded to eight other cities across the country -- Vancouver, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Oakville, Ont., Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.

Sodexo, a food and facilities management company, provides the funds and infrastructure for the foundation. Any money raised goes directly to the meals, Smith said. A client with a kitchen that has little traffic during summer months -- a university cafeteria kitchen, for example -- might become the site for meal preparation. The meals are then distributed to the children at various locations, such as summer camps.

"We're able to use those kitchens to produce nutritious lunches with all volunteers within our company and also our suppliers who are very good to donate the food that we then turn into nutritious lunches," Smith explained in an interview from Brampton, Ont. …

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