The numbers are in, and they’re not good. According to a recent UNICEF report, Canada ranks 37th on a list of 41 wealthy nations for children having access to nutritious food. What’s even more unsettling is that this figure hasn’t improved over the past decade. Canada’s ranking, coupled with the fact that nearly one in three Canadian children are overweight or obese, is a clear indication that we need to take action to improve the health of our children — and fast.
But for many families, this is easier said than done. Issues of food insecurity, and a food environment where unhealthy fare can be found at almost every turn down the grocery aisle, mean that it is often difficult to “take action” at home. This is where the Y comes in.
Approximately 37,926 nourishing meals are served daily at YMCA Child Care Centres across the Greater Toronto Area. Through our programs, we’re helping children gain access to wholesome foods like fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. And with menus that follow the Canada Food Guide, the healthful snacks and lunches that kids receive fuel their minds and bodies.
Aside from ensuring overall good health in children, the Y’s philosophy on food also includes another important piece: inclusion. Food is one of the most enjoyable ways to experience both familiar and new cultures, and with over 200 distinct ethnic groups residing in the GTA, we’re aiming to reflect the diverse nature of our communities with the food we provide in our child cares.
Exposing children to nutritious food is crucial during the early years. And since food preferences are formed when young, supplying kids with wholesome fare will help them form good eating patterns that they’ll carry into adulthood. At the YMCA, we’re investing in children’s futures by providing them with nutritious meals so they can have a strong start at living a healthy and successful life.