School’s out for summer, and that means no school lunches for three months, but one food service company is providing free lunches for underprivileged kids who would otherwise go without.
Sodexo Canada has brought back its Feeding Our Future initiative, which serves 135,000 lunches to at-risk children in nine cities across the country at summer camps. The initiative is from Sodexo’s Stop Hunger Foundation, which has donated more than a million meals since it was founded in 2001.
For its third year, Sodexo has brought its summer lunch program to camps in Victoria, where volunteers based out of St. Michael’s University School are preparing sandwiches for kids at different camps.
“We do roughly about 6,000 meals in the summer,” said Paula Henchion, Sodexo general manager in Victoria.
“We’re a little bit different to the other eight cities. Places like Vancouver, Calgary, these bigger cities have lots of other Sodexo units to get employees and managers to volunteer their time to make the lunches. Here in Victoria, we are the only Sodexo unit, so we connected with the St. Michaels University School and they, together with us, get all the manpower for all the 30 days that we do production.”
The lunches go to camps at such organizations as the Boys & Girls Club, the Quadra Village Community Centre, the Fernwood Neighbourhood Resource Group, the Victoria Native Friendship Centre and the Burnside Gorge.
Last year, the SMUS location logged 432 volunteer hours over the six-week program. But it’s not just providing food that Sodexo strives for, says Henchion – it’s providing good food.
“We try to make sure that everything that we give them is on the healthier side – whole wheat bread, juice, yogurt and then they get a treat like a cookie or a granola bar,” she said, adding that the volunteers take into consideration different allergies that kids may have in the preparation of meals.
“We reach out to each centre to see what works and what didn’t work. Otherwise, there’s no point in putting the effort into it if it’s not something the children are going to eat.”
Nathan Purcell, camp co-ordinator for Camptastic based out of the Quadra Village Community Centre, said the program really falls in line with their camp’s goal of providing positive experiences to the kids, many of whom come from lower-income neighbourhoods.
“We’re super thankful to have all the bag lunches donated,” said Purcell. “They’re easy to bring along – we don’t have to lug around stuff and make something. It’s just a bag lunch and they get to try something new.”
Purcell said the kids have responded well to the program, especially since the volunteers make an effort to prepare a variety of different foods rather than the same sandwich every day.
“There’s something in there for all of them,” he said. “It’s just awesome that we have this ability, that people don’t have to worry. They send their kid to camp and they know we have food there.”