Do your kids eat their vegetables? Jessica Pahl’s children do, thanks to the Agape Table for Kids program.
“We eat very healthy here. What one-year-old is going to eat broccoli? She does,” Pahl says with a smile, referring to her daughter Aaliyah. “And my three-year-old (Skyler) eats carrots here. I couldn’t get him to do that at home.”
Pahl believes seeing other kids eat healthy food encourages her kids to do the same. She’s been coming to the Agape Table for Kids (ATFK) program for two years, and will continue to attend after the arrival of her third baby, due in October.
ATFK is a weekly program that helps teach families and their pre-school aged children about healthy eating. It’s run out of the All Saints’ Church at the corner of Broadway and Osborne in the city’s West Broadway neighbourhood. Program registration caps at 15 preschoolers, and parents are encouraged to bring siblings, so attendance usually tops 40; there is often a waitlist to get in the program.
Each week, participants gather, play games, and share a healthy snack while learning about nutrition. A Nourishing Potential grant from The Winnipeg Foundation helps ATFK purchase healthy food and kitchen supplies.
Each family registered in ATFK receives a $20 gift card at Agape Table’s low cost grocery, a service offered to anyone; rather than a hand-out, Agape offers a hand-up by subsidizing the cost of groceries.
“What’s the most expensive stuff when you’re living on a fixed income? It’s fruits, vegetables, milk, dairy, eggs and meat. We purchase this all fresh and we sell it at cost,” explains executive director Martina Richter.
And the quality can’t be beat – the grocery sells Bothwell cheese, free-range eggs, and locally-raised meat. Fruits and veggies are sold by the item, not by the weight, which helps with budgeting. For example, one Gala apple costs 45 cents
“The most intimidating thing is if I only have $5 and I walk into a store and I’m buying four apples for my kids and it costs me $5, I’m heartbroken because that’s all I can afford. Here you can come in with your $5 and apples cost you $2, and you [know you before you walk up to the cashier you] can still buy some eggs.”
ATFK program coordinator Chantal Ducey ensures there are always activities for a variety of ages, like colouring and healthy food Bingo for kids, and lessons on serving sizes using visual cues for parents.
According to Pahl, ATFK is “a really big help,” and the atmosphere keep her coming back.
“Everybody gets along really good. It’s a really good idea for the kids to attend this class before they go to school.”
Jenn Lajoie, who has been coming to the program with her kids on and off since 2006, echoes Pahl’s sentiments.
“[I come for the] Friends, the other mothers to talk with. And healthy food ideas. And the low-cost grocery downstairs helps a lot with having fresh stuff for the kids every week.”
Having fresh food to provide for her three children is important to Lajoie.
“I always make sure I have one of every food group in our dinners. You teach them when they’re young to eat healthy and hopefully they do it when they’re older.”
Nourishing Potential provides grants so kids can access healthy food, nutrition education and cooking skills through after-school, drop-in and summer programs. The Nourishing Potential Fund will ensure support for these types of programs is available forever. For more information go to www.wpgfdn.org or call The Winnipeg Foundation at 204-944-9474.
All photos by Stacy Cardigan Smith