Unpacking a Harvest hamper 3: The baby kit


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This article was published 24/05/2021 (736 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Feeding babies • Nurturing parents

The fourth and final box in the Harvest Hamper was labeled ‘Baby Kit’.

As I start unboxing, I see it contains formula, pablum, diapers and wipes. I imagine that for a family with a newborn, this is pure gold. But more powerfully, when I hold the two Ziploc bags of disposable diapers in my hands, what I feel is connection and love. Both bags have been packed and labelled by hand. One bag is marked ‘Size 1’ and the other is ‘Size 3-4T’.

I found out later that volunteers love working on the ‘baby box’. I can understand why. In this moment, as my hands are physically feeling the cool plastic bag outside and baby-soft contents inside, it’s easy to imagine how a stressed parent could feel that they came not from a hamper but from the hands of another mom or dad who understood the feelings of joy and stress of a new baby.

Dreamstime.com A Harvest Manitoba baby kit contains: Three tubs Abbott Similac Advance; 4 boxes of Gerber baby cereal; 10 disposable diapers (size 1); 10 disposable diapers (size 3-4T); one package of Huggies baby wipes.

I believe this empathy, this feeling of connection, family, and community is part of the Harvest experience we all share. It happens whether we give or receive. Add in a baby and it really hits home.

Contents may vary

There is a lot of very basic, practical baby food here. Formula is a staple. A child’s first ‘solid food’ could come from one these four boxes of baby cereal. They’re non-GMO, banana-rice made by Gerber. Every spoonful gives baby about 25 calories along with 13 vitamins and minerals. There is no added sugar, salt or preservatives. The best before date is more than a month away.


Feeding babies since 2008

Baby kits are fairly new to Harvest. According to Colleen McVarish, director of corporate partnerships, “Harvest Manitoba started distributing baby kits through its ‘Hunger for Hope’ program in 2008. The mission was ‘To make sure no child goes to bed hungry.’ In 2017, we changed the name to ‘First Steps – Feeding Hungry Babies’. We would supply baby formula to mothers depending on what we had on hand. In 2018 or 2019 we officially included baby food and cereal in the program.”

Harvest Stars shining

Since March 2020 when the COVID pandemic began, requests for Harvest baby kits have increased dramatically. Right now, Harvest makes and distributes 350 to 400 kits per month.

About 30 per cent of the baby kit comes from food and product donations. Approximately 1,000 pounds of baby kit products are collected through Harvest’s Tin for the Bin program at grocery stores every month. Hopefully, this figure will increase with a renewed focus on Harvest’s new Tin for the Bin program once public health orders lift and Manitobans return to the stores.

The remaining 70 per cent is funded through the generosity of Harvest donations from Manitobans. Also, many wholesale and retail partners have stepped up with deep discounts that allow Harvest to create as many baby kits as they do.

Baby formula/food is one of Harvest Manitoba’s Top 10 most-needed Tin for the Bin items.

They are true Harvest Stars working behind the scenes to feed our community.

Formula for caring

As I step back and look at this baby kit again, I can see many hands helping. I see flailing baby hands, spoons flying, sounds of laughter, chaos and love. And I’m pretty sure this is what Harvest means when they say “nourishing our community and our sense of community.”  

This is the final instalment of the ‘Unpacking a Harvest Hamper’ series. Stay tuned for some interesting and inspiring stories every month about how our province comes together through Harvest, and how, with our tins, dollars and good nature, we make ourselves a Community of Harvest Stars.

Harvest Manitoba

Harvest Manitoba

Harvest Manitoba is a not-for-profit, community based organization. Our goals are to collect and share surplus food with people who are hungry and to offer training opportunities to help people step up and out of poverty. Our ultimate goal is to eliminate the need for food banks in our community. Find out more at www.harvestmanitoba.ca

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