After just returning from the Philippines, and having traveled to several countries less fortunate than Canada over the past few years, I can’t stop thinking about the affect of food on the health of a community. In Liberia, for instance, citizens had access to potatoes, fish, coconuts and chicken but scarcely few fruits and vegetables. Last week in the Philippines I witnessed intense poverty, but the prevalence of fruit trees, rice fields (photo below) and meats made the communities far less taxed and happier. Even in our thriving country of Canada, we have some severe food shortages. From now on, we should think about how to ‘feed it forward’.Dr. Valerie Tarasuk, a University of Toronto professor and a principal author of a series of reports on Household Food Insecurity in Canada was quoted in the National Post last week as saying “By our best estimate, there are more than 4 million Canadians currently living in situations where they are struggling to afford the food that they need. It is a very serious problem, and if we don’t pay attention to it, it just festers.”

Philippine Rice FieldsWhen I returned home from the airport today I reached into the freezer and pulled out homemade meals. My family is so lucky that we can buy in bulk, we have electricity with which to cook or freeze, and the pantry is well stocked. Most families, here and abroad, don’t have access to the variety, storage or cooking abilities we do. They live day to day and buy pepper or laundry soap in tiny bags because they can’t afford enough for a week. As I travel I am so proud to be Canadian, and love supporting countries who need the tourism dollars. That said, I also cringe seeing food struggles in my own Country. 1 in 6 Canadian children are hungry. Add adults and the elderly and the numbers are scary.

Thankfully this spring, through efforts starting February 15, Maple Leaf is giving 10,000 families across Canada $100 of free groceries, totalling nearly $100,000 in free groceries across the country!

Feed it Forward DonationNot only is this a challenging time for individual families, but it’s also a difficult time for not-for-profit organizations that rely on donations. With this in mind, Maple Leaf is launching a Canada-wide Feed it Forward contest to help Canadians “Feed it Forward” and give back to the volunteers that have made a deep impact on their lives. So many incredible Canadian community members volunteer and work tirelessly to help people lead better, healthier lives with good food. They are finding ways to help people eat well – so please nominate them!!

You can nominate an individual to share heart-warming stories of a volunteer or person who has gone above-and-beyond to make people’s live better with good food. So do you know someone who boosts nutrition education? Volunteers at a food bank? Uses events to collect food items? Maybe someone who builds skills to help families create healthier menus. The sky is the limit! Let’s Feed it Forward to thank and recognize the people in our communities who have made a positive difference by feeding the potential of others.

As part of this campaign, I was given the opportunity to donate groceries to an organization in need. There are so many, but I would like to start at the heart of my own city. After all, strong communities produce kids who thrive. The Greater Vancouver Food Bank provides assistance to over 26,500 people weekly, 20% of our members are children, 19% are seniors. (Image credit below: Greater Vancouver Food Bank). My kids and I did a big shop, and had the thrill of donating to this amazing organization. It’s crucial to get the kids involved early in charity.

Greater Vancouver Food BankThe needs of this community are met through 14 food locations, community kitchens, training workshops and close to 100 community agencies located in Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster and North Vancouver.

So how about it… lets help with this crisis. Nominate a wonderful community member to #FeedItForward (and share on social!). They could win $10,000 to donate to their favourite food charity, and you could save on Maple Leaf groceries just for the nomination.

Disclosure: “This blog post was sponsored by Maple Leaf Foods but the opinions are completely my own based on my experience.”

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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