Tackling food insecurity in the long term has to start with the next generation. As a starting point ensuring that they have the right diet to aid development and an understanding of simple whole foods is essential.
Empowering our Children
The right foods can have a huge impact on development.
One in five people who access our services is a child.
To meet the needs of parents and guardians who come to us for assistance we currently have two specific food programs to assist in the healthy development of babies, toddlers and preschoolers’ at our locations. These are called Kids Picks’ and Baby Steps, We also have a close partnership with many agency programs including curriculum-based learning program called Project CHEF.
- Baby steps recently replaced Basics For Babies, which was founded by JRFM and provided one bag for 6-18 month olds.
- Working with VCHA, GVFBS created a 6-12 month and 12-24 months offering in order to better target the needs of both age groups.
- This had many benefits such as allowing the latter bag to include healthy options sensible for development such as peanut butter, cheese, and oatmeal and finger foods.
- JRFM’s Basics For Babies campaign continues to support this initiative.
- Kids Picks is a supplement bag for preschoolers from 2-5 years old.
- The program went through a similar cost neutral transformation with VCHA in 2013 beginning by rotating content to ensure variety.
- The resulting bags had calories up by more than 1000, double the amount of iron and fiber content up by almost a third from 20-28 grams.
- Project CHEF Education Society, a partner with the GVFB, offers experiential programs to teach children and families about healthy eating and how to make wholesome food for themselves
- Project CHEF: Cook Healthy Edible Food is a curriculum-based school program aimed at children in kindergarten to grade seven
- The program teaches students about food: where it comes from, what it tastes like, how to prepare it and how to enjoy sharing it around a table
- Since the program began in 2008, we have taught over 10,000 Vancouver children and directly involved over 5000 parent and community volunteers
- The GVFB generously provides Project CHEF with warehouse and office space and transports our food and equipment to schools each week. www.projectchef.ca
LEARNING FROM THE PROFESSIONALS
Whilst both our child-focused programs had been running for some time, in 2013, recognizing the impact that nutrition has on our little ones, GVFBS partnered with local VCHA Public Health Dietitians to review and improve the nutritional quality of food in these supplement bags.
- Over the course of a two year partnership, VCH looked at a number of key areas, for example, improving the level of iron (which helps brain growth and development) and teaching babies’ the taste and texture of simple, whole foods
- Thanks to the expertise of VCH Public Health Dietitians and a team of dietetic interns, we were able to implement their recommendations and make a significant difference in the calorie and nutritional content of the bags, resulting in a healthier, more balanced offering
- Although the recommendations were seemingly small adjustments, they are extremely meaningful in their impact. Fruit leathers were replaced with fresh fruit, canned tuna with canned salmon and processed cereals and snacks with whole grain alternatives. Healthy proteins such as nut butters and cheese were also added
- Thanks to the knowledge and care brought forward by the VCH team the overall level of nutrition was dramatically increased for both programs while keeping costs neutral for the organization
We are pleased to report that the success of this project has paved the way for further exciting changes. In fact, we have since used this collaborative approach to create the foundation of our overarching Food Philosophy. This is work that is ongoing.