“Having something … to eat every day is huge.”
La Poutine Week and United Way Winnipeg partner to support family resource centres and help fuel kids for success
Kids focus better in school and have more energy to thrive when their bellies are full—but rising costs are making it harder for Winnipeggers to feed their families when faced with difficult decisions about how to make ends meet. According to a recent report, a record number of children in the province—more than 15,000—are using food banks every month.
It’s one of the many reasons why hunger is at the forefront for the city’s 24 family resource centres (FRCs), supported by United Way Winnipeg donors.
“It is certainly a top priority and directs a lot of our services,” said Chelsea Hewitt, Manager of Resource Centres at Family Dynamics, which operates seven neighbourhood family resource centres within subsidized housing developments throughout Winnipeg.
“What we do really is we support the emerging needs, and that is one that has emerged really over the last few years—and we don’t see that going away any time soon.”
“(Food security) is one that has emerged really over the last few years— and we don’t see that going away any time soon.”
“(Food security) has definitely been a driving force for a lot of our programs and services that we’ve been offering,” echoed Erin Fluerar, Family and Community Development Coordinator at the Plessis Community Family Resource Centre—a neighbourhood living room to about 105 families in nearby subsidized housing and the surrounding community.
“It always has been an issue for us, but … definitely, with the ever-increasing costs of food and everything else—it’s even more so now.”
Right now, 1 in 8 Winnipeggers struggle to meet their basic needs (nearly 92,000 people),
and 1 in 5 kids under five years old live in poverty—twice the national average. With many parents stretched so thin financially, help with a healthy meal can make a big difference to their little kids.
The Manitoba Healthy Schools Initiative* says children who eat breakfast and regular meals are energized and ready to learn. It further states research shows students who eat well have improved concentration, academic performance, attendance, self-esteem, behaviour, and lifelong healthy habits.
To help fuel kids for learning at the Transcona family resource centre, as many as 55 children and youth eat breakfast and collect lunch every week, from Monday to Friday.
Fluerar said she’s happy to help give a healthy start to the kids at her centre.
“We’re able to help with food security, which is a big thing,” she said. “Having something … to eat every day is huge.”
In addition to the breakfast, lunch, and snack programs at Plessis Road, a community kitchen also runs once a week, and teens can learn to cook with workshops designed just for their age group. Kids in the Kitchen, another skills-based cooking class, aims to connect younger children to food in a fun and fulfilling way.
“You’re not just learning about food; you’re learning about the nutrition of food or how to prepare food,” said Hewitt.
“Our goal really is to reduce the negative impacts on people’s lives.”
Making sure families have resources and access to food is just one way family resource centres carry out a mission of people supporting people.
It’s part of a larger circle of wraparound support that Winnipeggers can count on to build friendships, make ends meet, and stand on more solid ground.
“People visit our resource centres for various reasons, and everyone has different circumstances in their lives. Our goal really is to reduce the negative impacts on people’s lives,” said Hewitt.
“We start at the essential needs—without that, quite often you can’t move forward with other challenges in your life.”
Hewitt said the generosity of United Way Winnipeg donors helps family resource centres like the one on Plessis Road continue to do critical work in their communities so families and kids can thrive.
“Our United Way Winnipeg partnership is very important to us. We couldn’t do it without the funding and the donors and without the special people who are even at United Way as well,” she said. “We feel very connected to them, and they support us in navigating the challenges in the community.”