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Orillia's Home Hardware to match donations, up to $20K, to local school nutrition program

'It's one thing for us to make a donation, but this way it gets a little more people involved and a little more people energized and aware of the program,' says store co-owner
Home Hardware will match up to $20,000 in donations to the Sharing Place over the course of April, as the food bank looks to raise money to help fund its School Fuel program. The program provides food to about 4,000 students daily across 23 schools in Orillia and area.

Home Hardware and the Sharing Place have partnered up to bring more healthy food into local schools.

Over the month of April, Home Hardware will match all donations to the food bank up to $20,000, as the Sharing Place looks to raise funds for its School Fuel program.

The program provides healthy breakfast food to thousands of local students across 23 local schools, with daily offerings like fruit, bagels, granola bars, and other items that meet Canada’s Food Guide.

Home Hardware co-owner, Chris Locke hopes running a matching campaign will inspire the broader community to donate and get involved.

“It's one thing for us to make a donation, but this way it gets a little more people involved and a little more people energized and aware of the program,” he told OrilliaMatters. “I know a couple of us … have kids in school and it's sort of a personal thing and nice to get involved.”

Since beginning in 2019, the School Fuel program has seen consistent growth, with the number of students accessing it more than doubling over that time, says food bank officials.

“The population of the 23 schools represents about 9,000 children,” said Nancy Hannah, coordinator of the program “Pre-COVID, the schools were reporting to us that they had approximately 1,600 students across the 23 schools accessing our student nutrition program every day. Now, the schools are reporting over 4,000 students a day.”

With one in four Ontario children facing food insecurity, and an 18 per cent food insecurity rate in Orillia, Sharing Place executive director Chris Peacock said the program plays a vital role in ensuring students have access to healthy food.

Given inflation over the past few years, as well as income for ODSP and minimum wage not being indexed to inflation, Peacock said many families are struggling to provide for their families.

“(It) becomes a significant challenge for parents that are just really struggling to fill the lunchboxes of their kids,” he said. “Those kids show up at school, and it can be very challenging.”

It goes beyond nutrition and becomes a social issue, he explained.

“Yesterday, we heard of kids in school not wanting to sit with their friends, because they don't want to open up the lunch box beside their friends, because they know nothing's in it," Peacock said.

The Sharing Place funds 50 per cent of a school’s food order, and schools foot the bill for the remainder. In order to pay for the program, the Sharing Place relies solely on community donations.

Although schools receive some government funding to pay for their orders, Peacock said it is not enough to meet demand.

"Our program currently is not funded by the government. The school programs are funded by the government, and then they have to do their own fundraising initiatives as well,” he said. “It's not enough … a lot of schools have run out of money, and are waiting for additional funding to come in.”

Aside from providing healthy food in local schools throughout the school year, the program also runs throughout the summer, providing snacks at the library and numerous other organizations throughout the community.

Peacock said he hopes the campaign can raise $100,000 for the program, and applauded Home Hardware for their support.

“Home Hardware really wants to motivate our community to be able to see the importance of investing in school food, and they've been an incredible partner of ours over the years,” he said.

Those interested in donating to the Sharing Place can do so here.


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Greg McGrath-Goudie

About the Author: Greg McGrath-Goudie

Greg has been with Village Media since 2021, where he has worked as an LJI reporter for CollingwoodToday, and now as a city hall/general assignment reporter for OrilliaMatters
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