Since co-founding Child Hunger Brantford (CHB) in 2009, Dawn Hall and her team have been dedicated to providing children with nutritious meals on a daily basis.
Hall, who is the executive director of Child Hunger Brantford, discussed its beginnings.
“I knew there was a need as I have always worked in the charitable/non-profit sector and been involved in outreach programs…so, I started Child Hunger Brantford in 2009 [and] basically did a lunch bag full of food for the day, like snacks and lunch, for kids at school,” noted Hall.
Hall continued, “But we realized we weren’t really meeting the needs of as many kids as we could so we instead offered both lunches and…snacks because some kids come with lunch but they don’t have any snacks [and vice-versa]. So that way we get more kids to utilize the program.”
However, early on in the development of the CHB, Hall knew she had to solidify partnerships in order for the program to succeed. These partnerships have included the Grand Erie School Board, Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board, the Grace Anglican Church (where the CHB has been operating since its inception), Community Living Brant, and the City of Brantford along with an array of principals, teachers, and administrators of the schools.
“We are up to nine schools…and feed 120 children per day, but our rollout for the program obviously depends on funding [which] comes from government, federal grant applications, donations [and] generating funds through events,” said Hall. “Because we only have one staff person, basically all of our funds go directly to programming so [and] food…our program is run on a volunteer basis including our deliveries.”
Hall continued, “We do the feedback forms all of the time because we need those [as they] impact our plans for grant applications. And the schools…are very receptive.”
However, the reception from others in the community has been varied.
“From the general public, it’s really mixed. Honestly, I don’t think a lot of people actually realize the amount of hunger that happens in Brantford. Anybody working within the school system is quite aware of the child hunger issue that is happening….people don’t realize there are a lot of reasons why people can’t afford food like the impact of the cost of rent or the cost of living,” said Hall.
Another key aspect of the CHB has been the importance of utilizing locally sourced food and the importance of nutrition.
Halls said, “We have community gardens in the area, and before COVID, we actually taught some cooking classes—we taught how to grow [and] make your own food. We’re trying to get back into that now….I think that the learning aspect of growing your own food is disappearing, and it needs to come back.”
Along with developing awareness through events like the Annual Golf Tournament and new programs at the CHB, Hall has been focused on trying to expand its operations to help more children.
“We’ve been at the Grace Anglican Church since 2009 and it’s a wonderful facility. But if we’re able to grow, we need more space…it would allow us the opportunity to create a social enterprise to help [us] become sustainable…[as well as] create additional gardens and offer classes…and really try to become a major hub for the city and for the community.” noted Hall.