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Story by Emily Jones  

So often, within a city it is normal for some truth to go unnoticed. But there comes a time where the truth needs to be shared and paid attention to. Although many people may see Guelph as it appears – a beautiful city, where people go on about their days, and feel a sense of happiness and ease. But the truth is, like everywhere, behind closed doors there are people struggling. By acknowledging this truth, we can make a difference.

The truth is – there are many households in our community that are struggling to make ends meet. This struggle is real, and it’s life altering. What is also life changing is the support different groups and schools get from The Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington and their programs. All of these programs are focused on different needs; this story is going to tell you a bit about the connection between The Children’s Foundation Food and Friends Program, and a local group helping the community.

I had the privilege of visiting the Brant Avenue Neighbourhood Group in June of 2015. Until becoming connected with The Children’s Foundation, I had never heard about this group. Being introduced to the group was an absolute honour. In this short article, I want to tell you about this very special place I was able to visit, a place that woke me up inside, and opened my eyes to what is really going on in Guelph, and around the world.

The Brant Avenue Neighbourhood Group has been around for decades. It all started with two women looking to make a change in their neighbourhood – a change that would enable children to have fuller stomachs. I was able to meet one of the founding women, Janice Pearce-Faueert, and she told me the story of how it came to be 23 years ago that she and her late friend, Patricia Wilson, decided to embark on this great labour of love. Since the beginning, the program has come a long way. The Brant Avenue Neighbourhood group has been working with The Children’s Foundation since 2013 and receiving some funding from Food and Friends. Pearce-Faueet still comes to help with the week’s preparations on Tuesdays.

"In the beginning of 2013 we realized it would be a great asset to include healthy food snacks as a part of our food program,” says Lynne Kloostra, Neighbourhood Support Worker. "The group recognized a need to help feed the school-aged children foods with nutritional value and that would help keep them full throughout a day of learning." Kloostra also shared some interesting statistics, which exemplify the importance and need for these programs in our community – "…in the first month the program started, we handed out 408 snacks. To show you the growth of this program based on our education and outreach efforts, in June of this year, we handed out 5,170 snacks to people in the Brant area.”

I was able to conduct my interview on a Tuesday morning. Tuesdays are when preparations for the week are underway and I was able to lend a hand on the weekly prep while talking with the volunteers who make it all happen. In this time, volunteers come back from their shop and begin bringing in all of the fresh groceries they have bought for the week. Then, all of the fresh fruits and vegetables are washed, cut, and divided into separate portions. The portions are then bagged, and placed in the fridge. Foods that do not need to be refrigerated are also packed into individual serving sizes and organized and put into the pantry.

In talking with Kloostra, she shared, "Many parents have told us that if they couldn’t come and get assistance with these healthy snacks, they would have to keep their children home from school. They tell us what a difference the snack program has made in their lives, giving them one less thing to have to worry about in their sometimes very chaotic lives!”

The Brant Avenue Neighbourhood Group is open to their community from Tuesday to Thursday from 1 to 3 p.m. During this time, parents who have signed up to receive food for their children come to pick up their bi-weekly package of healthy foods, which enable them to send their children to school with foods that create a healthy morning meal. When the parents arrive, they are able to choose 20 items from the fridge, two times a month, and eight from the pantry area once a month, as well as two juice boxes.