Winnipeg Harvest’s Hunger for Hope program is pleading for public support to end child hunger in Manitoba.
The province-wide fundraising initiative is currently $100,000 short of the $200,000 it spends a year on baby food and formula. Hunger for Hope feeds over 1,600 infants a month.
"We’re looking for both (money and formula),"said Winnipeg Harvest director of development Kate Brenner during an announcement on Dec. 4 at Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre’s McGregor Neighbourhood Site (363 McGregor St.).
"Whatever works best for the heart. (Buying) the actual formula and knowing it’s going to a baby makes you feel really great, but the dollar aspect is also very good because we’re getting discounted nutritional formula so we can push that money further than a mom could."
Another plus in regards to cash donations is that Winnipeg Harvest knows exactly what formula is the most nutritious for babies.
Dr. Joyce Slater, an assistant professor in the department of human nutritional studies at the University of Manitoba, said it’s very important that infants get the right vitamins and minerals.
"It’s just critical in the first years of life for people to have adequate nutrition and we’ve just got too many kids in the city whose families are poor and don’t have access to the foods their children need to thrive and be the best they can be," Slater said.
"In infancy that means breast milk or good nutrition from infant formula — breast milk substitutes, as we call them."
Slater said an improper diet at infancy can lead to major problems in a child’s development.
"Even early on it can lead to cognitive developmental delays. Your brain isn’t functioning as well as it can, and the really scary thing about that is it’s permanent in some cases," Slater said.
"Iron is a really critical nutrient at that time of life, and cheaper alternatives like cow’s milk or juices just don’t contain the right nutrients, which can really compromise brain development."
Through the Hunger for Hope program, Winnipeg Harvest distributes formula and food to partner agencies like Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre.
North End resident Pam Harper, 41, has used the program for all five of her children and her one-year-old niece, Alizaya. She said cheap formula would cost her around $30 a week for one child, while name-brand formula would set her back $40-plus a week.
"I just encourage people to continue supporting the program," Harper said. "It does benefit the families a lot. It gives us a little bit extra to buy for the house, you know, the food for the other kids."
To donate to Hunger for Hope, go to www.hungerforhope.org or visit Winnipeg Harvest at 1085 Winnipeg Ave.
Also, CBC Radio One will hold an all-day radio-thon on Friday, Dec. 13. Formula donations can be dropped off at CBC Manitoba (541 Portage Ave.), Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.