Nightly dinner program for youth a vital part of Boys and Girls Club

By Heather McCullough

Nightly dinner program for youth a vital part of Boys and Girls Club

The only thing better than eating a well-balanced, nutritious meal is eating a well-balanced, nutritious meal with friends, both new and old.

The Warehouse Centre, at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Kawartha Lakes’ Lindsay facility, has many popular programs and one of the most accessed is the nightly dinner program for youth, Grades 7-12.

Currently, the program serves an average of 60 nutritious meals per week to youth who attend the after school program. This number is expected to increase throughout the winter months, serving up to 80 meals per week.

The program charges no fee to youth as long as they participate in the preparation and clean-up of the meal. Youth are also encouraged to provide input in planning the meals, and this is always done creatively and adventurously. Some of the meals youth have prepared include fish, stuffed chicken, curry, quinoa burgers and shrimp stir fry.

Heather McCullough.

Some youth participate in the program because they enjoy it. Others participate because it makes life easier on their parents. Some youth access the program because they have a need and it may be their only opportunity for a meal.

One youth explained that her mom is a single parent who works late and struggles to get dinner prepped for the family, so the Warehouse dinner program provides some relief for them. When we are able, we send leftovers home with youth who have a need beyond what the dinner program can offer.

The Warehouse Centre offers a place where youth can connect with adult mentors, meet new friends, connect with mental health supports, try new things and learn these life skills like cooking, but also budgeting, music, and sports.

Youth can laugh, hang out, feel hope and connect with services they may need to help them overcome tough situations.

Project Backpack

In April, Project Backpack was launched as an extension of the dinner program, with the goal of ensuring that families in need have healthy food for the weekend.

The program currently provides weekend food hampers for 20 children and youth as well as their parents. The hampers are packed with fresh produce, meat, dairy products, and other items that are not available at food banks. The program functions on a budget of $300 per week, with funds available only until Christmas 2017.

Project Backpack participants express their gratitude every time they receive a weekend hamper. One of the participants shared that she doesn’t have the financial means to purchase fresh produce, and without Project Backpack, her family wouldn’t be able to eat nutritious meals on a regular basis.

Without revenue, the dinner program and Project Backpack depend on grants and donations to function. Funds help support the purchase of food and staffing. These programs are essential to our club and community, and we will continue to strive for their existence and growth.

Mental Health

Mental health supports are another important component of our youth centre. Staff are able to connect youth with counselling resources and partners in the community and the centre offers access to Chimo Youth and Family Services workers. Chimo moved into the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kawartha Lakes Lindsay facility in November.

Hanging out in a safe, warm place, meeting new friends and enjoying adult mentors is a vital part of our centre. Youth feel that they have somewhere they belong. They can take part in life skills training, play some recreational sports or perhaps work on some music in our recording studio.

We know because we hear the feedback from the kids and from families — the Warehouse Youth Centre is a vital place for youth in our community.

You can donate here to help keep our youth centre open and operated by skilled staff who understand the needs of youth. There is no participation fee for youth so your support makes all the difference for the programs that are able to be offered.

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