They aren’t just hungry for ten months of the year.

The Hastings Prince Edward Learning Foundation has initiated a new pilot program over the summer months. The Food at Home program launched as a means to provide food to students over extended breaks while they are out of school and are unable to access school provided food programs. “We are piloting a new program in several of our secondary schools this summer and next school year,” said Maribeth deSnoo, Executive Director for Hastings and Prince Edward Learning Foundation. “A lot of the students accessing our programs through Food for Learning, when the summer break happens, they’re not getting breakfast, lunch, and dinner at school,” said Vicky Struthers, Community Development, Special Events & Grants Coordinator. “So they’re hungry all day long.”

“The plan is to give ten students from high schools, $50 gift cards for each week of the summer holidays, so that they have money to go and buy groceries over the summer holidays,” said Struthers. The program is meant to assist students over the summer holiday, but will also be implemented throughout the school year itself during extended breaks, such as the two week break during Christmas, and the week-long spring break in March.

The program is only in its pilot stages right now. “We need to get feedback from how it goes over the summer,” said deSnoo. “The biggest thing about any of our programs is the ongoing financial support, because all of our programs are run through our donations,” continued deSnoo. “So there would have to be support and donors seeing the importance of that for us to continue on with programs like Food for Home, if it were to become a long standing program.”

The Hastings Prince Edward Learning Foundation is able to run its programs because of donations made by the community and sponsors, as well as through fundraisers held throughout the year.

Within the last year, they have also taken on The Good Backpack Program. Taking up the reins of the program from the United Way, the program helps ensure children have the opportunity to participate completely in their education. Students in need of support are able to confidentially apply through school staff if they require supplies they otherwise wouldn’t be able to access, such as a backpack. Funds are raised for the program through events like Stuff the Bus and Cram the Cruiser, and through community donations and sponsorship. The backpacks are available to students in publicly-funded schools within the Hastings and Prince Edward Counties and are dependent on annually raised funds to support the program. In the 2016/2017 school year, almost 500 people utilized the Good Backpack program, meaning nearly 500 backpacks went to students in need of support.

“We’re also responsible for the student nutrition programs in South East Ontario,” said deSnoo. The student nutrition programs ensure that while at school, students have access to breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. “Part of the joy of these programs is the universal access,” said Kellie Brace, Food for Learning coordinator. “It helps kids to be more engaged in their learning.” “When they are fed nutritious food, they’re certainly much better connected to their classroom work, they’re more focused.” The student nutrition programs helped more than one million people in need last year. “Another benefit is they experience a sense of belonging at school,” said Brace. “Kids get to socialize and eat together in a family style setting and really be connected to something really be positive in their school.”

A variety of programs are offered through the Hastings and Prince Edward Learning Foundation apart from the Student Nutrition and Good Backpack programs.

The Prom Project is available to elementary and secondary school students attending a celebratory event. Students are able to select formal clothing, free of charge, too attend their prom, graduation or similar ceremony. It commemorates the achievements of students who have overcome diversity.

The Len & Olive Black Memorial Fund gives students facing financial hardship assistance purchasing items and materials to fully participate in courses, or help with the application fee for post secondary education.

The Student Emergency Fund is also available and gives immediate assistance to students and their families by providing monetary aid or gift-in-kind donation.

The 17th annual Hastings and Prince Edward Learning Foundation Golf Tournament on July 4 is held in an effort to raise money for the Student Emergency Fund, which in the 2016/2017 school year received nearly 400 requests for assistance and provided almost $45,000 in support.

To donate to one of the programs offered by the Hastings and Prince Edward Learning Foundation, you can do so by phone, mail, or online at www.hpelearningfoundation.com/donate/

Source: Jonathan Ludlow/The Intelligencer http://www.intelligencer.ca/2018/07/03/hunger-has-no-holiday

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