Surge in Hungry Students: Economic Strain Increases Child Hunger in Waterloo Schools

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With the resumption of school, community food organizations are reporting a concerning surge in the number of children heading to their classrooms on empty stomachs. Food4Kids Waterloo Region indicates that approximately 3,000 local children are departing for school without receiving the necessary nutrition, an issue that is partially attributable to the escalating costs of everyday living.

Consumer prices have soared significantly. Local resident Marilyn Degroot observed, “Items are more costly than ever; it’s become essential for everyone to find a deal.”

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Notably, the Food Bank of Waterloo Region is grappling with an unprecedented influx of individuals in need due to climbing food costs, accelerating interest rates, and the ongoing implications of the global pandemic tide.

A record-breaking 46,000 visits were made last month by individuals seeking food assistance, a striking 35% rise compared to the same period in the previous year. Alarmingly, children and youth constituted more than one-third of these visits.

Brett Friesen from the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington raised concern over this issue characterizing it as a source of anxiety and depression amongst children who lack healthy food or struggle with poverty. Parents, he remarked, are faced with the harsh reality of prioritizing their scarce resources, sometimes choosing necessities over nourishment for their children.

Food4Kids, located in southern Kitchener, is boldly confronting this issue. They’ve established partnerships with nearly 80 schools across three school boards with a mission to satisfy the nutritional needs of schoolchildren. “As it stands, we have financial resources to sustain the need of 1,100 children despite there being an estimated 3,000 students attending school hungry,” said Lorri Detta, the executive director for Food4Kids.

Cali Dubois, the program coordinator, suggested that increased funding for schools could make a significant difference, reinforcing the need to help children experiencing hunger.

Food4Kids emphasizes that hunger is a ceaseless adversary facing children, persisting even on weekends and holidays, and not just contained within the school timeframe. Consequently, sustaining support beyond school hours is critical.

Welcoming philanthropic efforts to combat this growing issue, both the local food bank and Food4Kids continuously invite the community to contribute through volunteering and food donations throughout the year.