Nurturing kids by nourishing their bellies

Brenda Gingell feeds close to 200 kids each week at Inner City Youth Alive.
Photo by Ian McCausland.

Can you imagine feeding 185 kids? Inner City Youth Alive’s kitchen manager Brenda Gingell does it every week, and she couldn’t be happier.

“Growing up I can remember telling my parents, ‘I don’t care what job I do, I just want to be working with kids.'”

The kids at ICYA are equally fond of Brenda, especially 10-year-old Shay Harris who regularly volunteers in the kitchen.

“I really love to cook so this is a really great place to come. Brenda is a really nice person to hang around with and she’s like a mom to me,” Harris says.

Located in Winnipeg’s William Whyte neighbourhood, the food served at ICYA is vital to the children and youth attending the school and drop-in; of the 185 kids who receive meals on a weekly basis, 80 per cent don’t get enough to eat at home.

“I’ve had some kids tell me that if it wasn’t for the food they get here, they wouldn’t eat at all,” Brenda says.

Providing kids with a healthy meal is incredibly important to Brenda.

“It’s healthy and nutritious, and a balanced diet,” she says of the food she prepares.

She’s become a whiz at hiding healthy ingredients in meals. For example, she’ll put cranberries in spaghetti sauce and chili, helping ensure donated food doesn’t go to waste, she says.

“I make do with everything,” she adds with a smile.

It’s a good thing she loves her work – Brenda regularly puts in 12-hour days.

“It makes me feel happy and to me it makes me feel like I’ve done something. It makes me proud.”

To read more Stories of Food in Winnipeg, click here.

Stacy Cardigan Smith


Communications Specialist with The Winnipeg Foundation, Community News Commons Editor, mom of two, health enthusiast, West End resident, cat lover and generally cheery gal.