Nanaimo Foodshare staff pour spoonfuls of gooey red-streaked cranberry dough into black muffin tins and pop them in the oven.
The first batch of many sit nearby cooling on racks in the organization’s kitchen.
Staff and volunteers will bake nearly 2,000 muffins to give children something to munch on while they attend day camps in city parks this summer.
Preparing the snacks in-house means Foodshare can make items with lower salt, sugar and fat content. Those tasty treats will be paired with healthy lunch wraps, sandwiches, fruit and veggies.
Foodshare is working to fill the bellies of children living in poverty, through its summer Lunch Munch program, to ensure kids are nourished and can focus on learning and participating in fun activities with other kids, instead of hunger.
“It’s great for the community. Some kids that are hungry at least get something in their stomach,” said Foodshare volunteer Ron Greenhorn.
The program, which the organization has provided for more than a decade, will offer more than 6,000 meals for children.
And cooking the summer treats and lunches takes less time this year thanks to the addition of an eight-rack commercial oven, purchased at a reduced price of about $2,900 from Jemco, and a commercial mixer. The organization also purchased a walk-in cooler.
Crystal Dennison, Foodshare’s executive director, said the acquisitions were possible because of donations from the community.
Baking 200 muffins has been cut from six hours to two.
“It frees up our time to work on other projects,” said Francois de Jong, food program co-ordinator.
And what are staff and volunteers doing with that extra time? Offering workshops for children on healthy cooking and gardening through a partnership with Georgia Avenue and Fairview community schools.
People interested should contact the schools directly.The Fairview workshops run 9:30 a.m. to noon July 16-19 and Georgia Avenue’s run 9:30 a.m. to noon Aug. 13-16.
The organization is also offering the same workshops in-house from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. from July 30-Aug. 2 and Aug. 20-23. There is a $25 registration fee for the workshops, which are for children ages six to 10 years old.
The sessions give kids the opportunity to learn about food and where it comes from and the fee may be waived depending on a family’s financial situation.
“We don’t want finances to be a barrier. We want everyone to attend,” said Dennison.
Foodshare is also launching its campaign asking people to sponsor a child for Lunch Munch. A donation of $60 will help provide a nutritious lunch for one child for the summer.
The Lunch Munch program runs from July 3 to Aug. 24 and is being offered at Deverill, Mansfield and Pawson parks, as well as Harewood Mining and Community Water Park. Nutritious lunches made by Foodshare will also be provided to the Boys and Girls Club’s daycare and day camp programs.
For more information or to donate, please contact Nanaimo Foodshare at 250-753-9393 or go to http://nanaimofoodshare.ca.