Here's a little-known fact about Halton Region, one of the wealthiest areas in Canada: some of the children in the region are going to school hungry.
For Desjardins Agent Robyn King in Milton, ON, it didn't come as a surprise when she learned about the hungry children from another parent who helps run the Halton Food for Thought (HFFT) school breakfast program.
"Many people assume that there isn't much poverty in Halton Region, but from what I've seen over the past several years many people are struggling," said King. "I know of single mothers and families who rely on the local food bank quite heavily - when they can get there. So, I wasn't surprised to learn that some children were heading to school each day with an empty stomach."
Located directly west of Mississauga, Halton Region includes the prosperous communities of Oakville, Burlington, Milton and Halton Hills.
"Yes, there are hungry children in Milton and across Halton," says Maureen McLaughlin, HFFT's Community Development Manager- Milton & Halton. "The fact is, one in 10 students in the region arrives at school each day without enough food to sustain them throughout the day. A staggering six in 10 high school students arrive at school without having eaten breakfast.
"We know that kids are hungry for many different reasons so we don't question why they may use our programs. Our programs are safe and reliable sources of healthy food and allow students to enjoy the social aspects of sharing a meal with friends," she adds.
Desjardins' King was honoured to present the HFFT with a $5,000 grant from Desjardins in support of the breakfast program at Milton's McKenzie-Smith Bennett Public School. To mark the occasion, she helped serve breakfast at the school on a recent Wednesday morning.
"It was amazing," she says. "By far, one of my best days this year. So many little ones just excited to get a cheese string or an apple. Many of the children said they hadn't had breakfast."
The donation to HFFT was part of the Desjardins GoodSpark Community Grants Program, which delivered more than $271,000 in grants to 76 community organizations in Ontario, New Brunswick and Alberta late last year.
Each of the grants included a donation from a local Desjardins Agent. The Agents were invited to nominate organizations that are important to them and their communities.
All told, the Desjardins Agents donated over $73,000 of the $271,300 total.
This was the second year that Desjardins Insurance and the exclusive Desjardins Agent Network have teamed up to support Canadian communities. In 2018, a total of $190,000 was given to community initiatives in the three provinces where Desjardins Insurance offices are located.