Nutrition is INN – After School Snack Program for Homeless Children
Nutrition is INN is an after school snack program for school aged children that promotes healthy eating and nutrition and provides homeless children with the nourishment they need to make it through the day.
Each and every afternoon the same scene plays out in homes across our city – school has ended and hungry children head home to raid the fridge for a snack to tie them over until dinner. Hours since their last bite of food at lunch and hours away from their next meal, their little bodies need nourishment to bridge the gap.
For children living at a homeless shelter, this scene plays out very differently. Unable to control the availability of food and without access to a fridge, they often have to wait until dinner or are apt to eat sugary, unhealthy foods just to quiet their tiny tummies.
Through the Nutrition is INN program, these children have the opportunity to access a healthy after school snack each and every day. Arriving off the school bus, children are invited up to the dining room where they are greeted with snacks such as fruit, veggies, and yogurt as well as drinks like juice, milk, and water. Inn staff encourage the participation of children and parents in the preparation of snacks, teaching both mom and child about the importance of healthy eating and how to properly prepare food.
This program provides opportunities to engage parents in their child’s health and builds life skills that will ensure positive outcomes beyond our shelter walls. These children are the future of our city and we believe that engaging them and their families through healthy eating plays an important role in their well-being and their future.
Who Will it Benefit?
Each day, Inn from the Cold sees over 65 children and youth through our doors – these children are the direct beneficiaries of this program.
Most of the children who come through our doors come from intergenerational poverty and homelessness. Many have experienced unimaginable trauma and abuse. For some, Inn from the Cold becomes the one consistent place in their life, where they can find stability and safety and begin to heal.
Food plays an important role in a homeless child’s healing process. It provides them with energy to get through their day, and assists them in staying focused throughout. Regular snacks and access to fruits and vegetables are extremely important for any child, but for those living in a shelter environment, it becomes a critical component to their ability to adapt, function, and balance the emotions associated with the crisis of losing their home.
For children participating in our Early Childhood Development activities like Get Dancy, an after school dance program, after school snacks are critical. Before implementing the Nutrition is INN program, children would lose energy 20 minutes into the program, often complaining of hunger. Now, ensuring children start the program with a full belly has completely changed participation levels and the outcomes for these children.
Providing something as simple as a healthy snack to homeless children does much more than just provide food- it improves concentration, promotes normality, builds healthy families, and helps to minimize the health impacts of homelessness on children and their families. By supporting this program, you are giving children and their families the gift of a nutritional snack so that they can focus on rebuilding their lives.