There’s something missing at Win Gardner Place. But that ‘something’ probably won’t be missed.
As of December 2013, the facility, located on McGregor Street in the North End, has been officially pop and energy drink-free. The unofficial ban came into place about a month prior.
“It took the kids a while to adapt; at first we’d have them waiting outside with Slurpees, just to drink them,” says Donovan Lowe, a program coordinator at the facility. “The kids have got it now though. They know not to come in here with any pop or drinks.”
Lowe is the coordinator of the Positive Athletic Cultural Experiences (PACE) program at Win Gardner. PACE, facilitated by Ma Mawi, offers free recreational and cultural after school programming to approximately 300 kids of all ages. It runs five days a week out of three locations: Win Gardner, Turtle Island Community Centre and Weston Community Centre.
Food is a big component of the program. Every day kids get a snack or meal. And thanks to a grant from The Winnipeg Foundation’s Nourishing Potential program, the snacks are getting a lot healthier.
Nourishing Potential provides grants to support healthy food, cooking skills development and nutrition education. It was the program’s healthy food focus that first gave PACE staff the idea of banning pop.
“That was working well so we also pushed it for the food too,” Lowe says of the ban, explaining their next move was to give kids healthier snacks. For example, instead of serving chicken fingers and fries, staff started making stir-frys and salads.
“Although the food we cooked was healthy, it wasn’t super [foreign to them]. We made chicken wraps -kids love that kind of stuff,” Lowe says.
“We realized kids were enjoying these healthy meals, which we didn’t expect. And they were adapting to the fact they weren’t allowed unhealthy drinks,” Lowe says. “So we figured we might as well just (institute a facility-wide ban).”
Ma Mawi’s communications officer Marlene Davis sees the benefit of the ban – and knows the food skills taught in PACE are important for the kids.
“Diabetes rates are high among Aboriginal people. Programs like this give the opportunity to participate and learn about healthy lifestyles, learning there are alternatives,” Davis says.
Not only is PACE teaching kids how to cook, it’s also providing marketable skills – such as earning a Food Handler Certificate. Nourishing Potential helps pay for that training.
“Programs like [PACE] also develops skills such as team building,” Davis says. “And then it builds on there. I think participants are also able to gain some customer service experience, which helps later with employment.”
For more information about PACE, go to www.mamawi.com
This summer, you can join Jonathan Toews – Nourishing Potential ambassador and donor – and help nourish the potential of Winnipeg kids. You can make a gift online, in person at the Foundation office or any branch of Assiniboine Credit Union or by texting GOAL to 45678.
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, targeted to grow to a $5 million endowment, will ensure support for these types of programs is available forever. For more information about Nourishing Potential go to www.wpgfdn.org or call The Winnipeg Foundation at 204-944-9474.
This story was first published in Community News Commons in January 2014.
Check out this video featuring PACE program participants:
All photos by Stacy Cardigan Smith