WINDSOR, ONT. -- A new school meal program is kicking off early to help bring homemade meals to children and families while schools remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ontario Student Nutrition Program, Southwest Region (OSNP) is working with local farmers and chefs for the new Farm-to-School program which was set to launch this coming fall. The early start is to ensure thousands of meals are received along with creating opportunities for famers and businesses during the pandemic.

“Restaurants and farmers have all been hard hit” says Jillian McCallum, Food and Logistics Coordinator with OSNP in a news release.  “We knew the program was needed now more than ever – people are interested in investing in local supply chains for their food and creating institutional Farm to School type meal programs is an excellent way to make that happen.”

The new Farm-to-School (F2S) meal program is an revision of OSNP’s traditional school snack and breakfast programs. OSNP is hoping the government and other funders will invest in an expanded program when school returns next year.

For now, the modified program aims to help with challenges families are facing due to job losses and other financial shortfalls. To start, OSNP has selected to give most of the meals to families who have children with disabilities. 

“Getting healthy food to children has always been a priority for us” said OSNP Manager Stephanie Segave. “The rate of low-income families with children in Windsor surpasses the provincial average, so we’ve been working hard to alleviate these challenges to our already vulnerable population. We knew that there was a big opportunity here to not only feed families but also to help out our local chefs and farmers – it’s a win-win.”