Local food banks filling the void and filling tummies
One thousand two hundred and fifty students across four additional primary schools in the Outaouais region will be able to learn on a full stomach thanks to a collaboration between Moisson Outaouais and La Cantine pour tous.
Since January 15, the two have joined forces to supply accessible meals to primary schools in the region in an effort to combat the growing issue of food insecurity. With costs rising across all avenues, the increasing total at the grocery till has taken its toll on Canadians’ wallets. PROOF, a research program out of the University of Toronto, found household food insecurity in the ten provinces rose from 15.9 per cent to 17.8 per cent from 2021 to 2022, the highest recorded to date.
Leaving almost 1.8 million children under 18 to experience some level of food insecurity throughout 2022, meaning one in four children lived in households who suffered food insecurity. But the need for access to a healthy meal doesn’t stop at the home dinner table. A recent study from l’institut de recherche et d’informations socioéconomiques discovered only 13 per cent of primary school students in Outaouais have access to a meal service at school.
Without the necessary funding and a kitchen to call their own, it can become difficult, if not impossible, for a school to provide a meal service to its students.
Moisson Outaouais has been pumping out ready-to-eat meals for the Outaouais region since the inclusion of its transformation kitchen in 2020. Supporting mainly food banks, soup kitchens, shelter services, and family homes, an average of 26,000 kilograms of food is distributed to affiliated organizations each week. The initiative continues to grow with the addition of four primary schools. “Our mission is twofold: to ensure that every child in our schools can eat their fill with dignity, without stigmatization, and to strengthen our mission to our community,” said Moisson Outaouais general director Armand Kayolo. “It is a model that not only nourishes our children, but also our collective future.”
Through La Cantine dans les écoles program, healthy and nutritious meals are distributed across 11 regions of Quebec, benefitting 34,379 students. “La Cantine dans les écoles program is an accessible practical solution to make life easier for parents so that their children can eat well at school, regardless of the economic situation at home,” said Amandine Paulin, director of La Cantine dans les écoles. “School feeding is a social issue. The collaboration with Moisson Outaouais means that we can reach 1,250 children through four additional schools. There is something to be proud of.”
Despite pushback from Canadians, Canada is the sole country among the Group of Seven, an intergovernmental political and economic forum, without a national school nutrition program, according to the Breakfast Club of Canada.
La Cantine pour tous works to ensure every person in Quebec can benefit from healthy and accessible food. The collective brings together social and solidarity economy organizations to help combat food insecurity and other food issues in their area. Through La Cantine dans les écoles program, over 100 primary schools have gained access to affordable school meals in collaboration with 25 social caterers.
With three alternating menus containing 60 recipes, Moisson Outaouais has created a varied menu to please even the pickiest of eaters. “Every day offers a new culinary experience, promising to nourish not only bodies but also curious minds,” read a press release from Moisson Outaouais.
Dishes range from teriyaki chicken with rice and vegetables, Chinese pork macaroni to vegetarian options like the barbecue tofu plate or bean alfredo pasta. Along with a dessert, meals are delivered hot and ready to eat to schools 180 days a year at a flexible cost to parents.
With a $6 per meal cost and a $1 per meal minimum, parents are able to select the amount that meets their budget. “We’re very optimistic that we will be able to add more schools in the future,” said Moisson Outaouais communication coordinator Rabinzel Hanna.
Photo caption: Moisson Outaouais chef David Gagné readies a nutritious meal that is to be served hot and ready to 1,250 students across four primary schools in Outaouais.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Moisson Outaouais