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Exclusive cooking classes for those facing food insecurity

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Two local community organizations are bringing their resources together to help those facing food insecurity amidst rising prices.

The County of Simcoe recently provided a grant to the Urban Pantry program, which is run by the Simcoe County branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). The new funding will create a partnership between the CMHA and the Barrie Food bank, helping those struggling to keep their pantries full as grocery prices continue to rise.

"Community food security programs are so important in our community because we know that 1 in 6 households, 1 in 6 families, cannot afford to buy food," says Jenna Zardo, the Urban Pantry coordinator. "That means they are going days, most of the month, without food, without affordable, nutritious food."

The grant is coming from the county's Social and Community Investment fund, says Lynne Raimondi, the manager of fundraising, communications and volunteers for the local CMHA.

The CMHA and Barrie Food Bank will hold cooking classes exclusively for their clientele through the partnership. Raimondi says that studies show a growing correlation between food insecurity and poor mental health.

"It will really help increase their food skills education," says Raimondi. "Sometimes people may receive items from the food bank that they've never cooked with before, so these classes will offer an opportunity to learn how to cook with particular foods."

Currently, the program helps support over 500 individuals and families. The Urban Pantry program is entirely reliant on grants and donations.

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