Nearly 200,000 Manitobans experience food insecurity daily. That means roughly 14 per cent of all Manitobans cannot afford healthy food, or in many cases, any food at all.
Many struggle to put food on the table for their children and families, and those who can are often forced to resort to cheap, unhealthy food because it is all they are able to afford. These problems have only gotten worse as the Covid-19 pandemic left many out of work and struggling to pay for necessities.
“I am on social assistance, and with three kids it is mentally, financially, and emotionally very hard. It is very hard. Everything is so expensive,” says Sharam, a father to two children supported by our FASD Family Support, Education, and Counselling Program (FASD Family Support).
Our FASD Family Support Program works with families raising children up to 14 years old, that are living with FASD or confirmed pre-natal exposure to alcohol. The program helps with identified challenges related to development, behaviour, learning, or sensory based needs.
Providing access to healthy food fits the public health mandate that our FASD Family Support Program follows. This mandate includes “addressing and supporting issues such as food security, healthy nutrition and mental health,” which have all been identified as being some of the key determinants of health.
The FASD Family Support Program received over $16,000 worth of grocery gift cards from two campaigns through the Good Food Access Fund. This fund, distributed by Community Food Centres Canada, has the goal of giving funds to organizations trying to cope with Covid-19 and the ever-deepening food insecurity crisis across the country.
The $16,000 worth of grocery gift cards was used to purchase healthy food hampers and produce boxes, in addition to direct distribution of grocery gift cards to families, reaching a total of 231 children, youth and caregivers supported by the programs.
“We have witnessed firsthand some of the struggle’s families have experienced in relation to COVID-19. Some of these challenges involved fear and anxiousness regarding contracting the virus, especially in relation to compromised health and medical issues. An additional challenge for caregivers involved trying to safely navigate grocery shopping while all their children were home with them,” says Anita Posaluko, Coordinator of the FASD Family Support, Education and Counselling Program.
“For families on extremely fixed incomes, this opportunity helped to ensure their food supply stretched farther, which in turn freed up some resources to cover other very important family or household commitments.”
Harriet and her husband are both in their sixties and living on pension while raising their grandson. Her husband was sick for many years, and Harriet was forced to dip into their savings just to survive.
“We have been very blessed by the [FASD Family Support] Program. They have given us gift cards, they brought us food, and they gave us games for our grandson. I can’t say enough good about the program,” says Harriet.
“The extra food they gave us around Christmas time was a lifesaver. We could get our grandson a Christmas present with the money we had left.”
The food baskets and gift cards did more than just put food on family’s tables. They gave some relief from the stresses that come with day-to-day life.
“We have witnessed the benefits the food hampers and grocery gift cards have had on the families we work with. Many families related that it helped to lift their spirits and alleviate a lot of the stress they were carrying regarding meeting their basic needs, while staying safe,” says Anita.
“I appreciate it a lot. I can stand on my feet; it was a big help. I could not take my kids anywhere. This has helped me come back to my normal situation and gave me confidence again,” says Sharam.
“Our grandson is growing so fast, his clothes fit kids older than him. When you are raising a kid, they are going to want the toys and stuff their friends have. When you get an extra thing like [the food basket], it can really make a difference in buying other things,” says Harriet.
The Good Food Access Fund is one of a handful of food grants our FASD Family Support Program has received in the past few months, all with the goal of aiding the families supported by the program.
For more information on the FASD Family Support, Education and Counselling Program, visit: https://newdirections.mb.ca/fasd-support-education-and-counselling-program/