Back to School Bonanza at the Putman Family YWCA helps families fight food insecurity and prepare for September

Quick escape link leading to Weather Network websiteQuick Escape Harvest and other participants planting in the community garden

Back to school is an exciting time for students – and part of the joy and anticipation of heading back to class is getting a new backpack, fresh sets of pencils and erasers, water bottles, and binders.

However, for many families experiencing financial pressure, those essential supplies can be out of reach – not to mention the cost of healthy food that helps power young learners.

That’s why YWCA Hamilton, in partnership with the Hamilton Jewish Federation Lions of Judah, was proud to host the Back to School Bonanza event at the new Putman Family YWCA on Ottawa Street.

Tenants, staff, and children came together for an evening of fun and celebration that included an opportunity for school-aged children in the building to choose their own backpacks and school supplies generously provided by Backpacks for Brainiacs, a non-profit organization founded by Women of Distinction nominee Blerina Ago.

The event also included a pizza dinner for tenants, a kids’ corner with crafts and games, tenant trivia, and a photobooth, all generously provided by the Lions of Judah. The Lions also provided grocery cards to all tenants who attended, which will help fight food insecurity for Putman residents, particularly as families stock up on back-to-school supplies.

“I love it. It’s exciting, it’s fun, and it gets people together,” said Putman resident Leanne, whose child is starting kindergarten in September. “The backpack helps a lot actually – plus there’s food,” she added with a laugh.

“It’s been absolutely wonderful to see the breadth of services that YWCA Hamilton offer and the community building that’s being done. It’s clear that within this building, people have developed a semblance of family beyond the families that they already have,” said Amanda Katz, a volunteer with the Lions of Judah.

“It’s really unbelievable. We’re so proud to be able to support in our small way – not only from a funding perspective, but to be able to participate in the programming is really special and to connect with the community.”

The event also invited tenants to plant flowers in the new Community Courtyard and Garden empowered by Brenda Yates and Family – a space that will be used to plant both flowers and veggies, further easing the impact of food insecurity for tenants at Putman.

Lilly Pagliacci, a Housing Support Worker at Putman, says staff are planning food programming in the future so residents can learn about food production, collaborative cooking, and cultural sharing.

“The fact that we can all come together and celebrate the start of fall, whether or not you’re a student – this is a key feature for community building, and even giving folks some life skills at the same time,” she said.

“We’re so thankful for this garden, because it’s allowing folks to have connection to green spaces and plants within the city. Having this is not only about letting food grow, but helping us grow as a community together.”

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