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Elora resident, 12, helping end child and youth food insecurity

Movie Night in the Park, a fundraising by Briar, will happen on June 18 at Bissell Park with a rain location set for the Community Centre in Elora
Briar Gemmell outside of her backyard in Elora.

CENTRE WELLINGTON - A 12-year-old girl has kickstarted a passion project to raise awareness on children and youth food insecurity in Guelph and Wellington County with a movie screening. 

Dubbed "Movie Night in the Park, a fundraising by Briar," the event was created by Briar Gemmell, a 12-year-old Elora resident, who after learning about children and youth food insecurity in a radio commercial, delved into research and event planning.

Gemmell’s mom, Kelly, explained the radio commercial of a teacher telling a story about a child and a sandwich deeply affected Briar and resulted in her wanting to learn more about food insecurity and to see how she could help. 

Simultaneously, her school had also just run its Live Free from Hunger campaign, where Briar learned more about the Food & Friends program by Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington.

That program provides support to over 15,000 students in Guelph and Wellington County by offering meals at each of their program locations.

“Food & Friends helps to support each of the programs by providing funding, volunteers, menu planning, training, and more. Our goal is to bring healthy foods to hungry minds,” explained Anita Macfarlane, program director for Food & Friends and Scholarships program, in an email.

“We understand that each school or agency is unique and is responsible for their own. Meals are served to students at each program location by volunteers or staff. So far this school year, the program has served 1,108,450 meals in Guelph and Wellington County."

Through the program, Briar learned many children in the Guelph and Wellington area are experiencing food insecurity. 

According to a 2021 Our Future Food Guelph-Wellington report, roughly 9.8 per cent of residents living in Wellington County reported living in a food insecure household. In Guelph, 13.8 per cent of residents, or one-in-seven, reported the same.

Of the residents who reported living in a food insecure household, 16.5 per cent were severely food insecure, which represents two per cent of the total population of Guelph and Wellington County.

“My older sister inspired me to have my own passion project since she did an amazing job with hers for Melanoma research in 2019 and I wanted to do something to support my community,” said Gemmell in a Facebook message.

“Many kids do not have enough food to eat and that doesn’t feel right with me. I am very fortunate I have enough food to eat. I’ve probably met lots of kids who have food insecurity but it’s not something I was really aware of until I learned about it over the radio and with the Live Free campaign at school. This is why I wanted to partner with the children’s foundation as they provide healthy meals to those who need it.”

She wanted to create an event where the whole community of Wellington County and Guelph could get together in a fun and interactive way as COVID has been hard on everyone and there haven’t been many community events as a result of the pandemic. 

The movie night in the park will happen on June 18 at Bissell Park in Elora, which will have an outdoor movie showing of Sing 2, a baked goods sale, a basket raffle and games to play before the movie starts. All proceeds will be donated to the Food & Friends program. 

“Briar is asking for families to provide a donation at the gate. 100 per cent of the money raised will go to the Food & Friends program, so that they can continue to support the youth in our community. The date is June 18 at Bissell Park with a rain location set for the Community Centre in Elora,” said Kelly in a Facebook message.

To learn more about Briar’s fundraising event, head on to her Facebook page.