May 9, 2016
Last September, we spoke to Catherine Marlin about her new community group feeding kids in Acadia. We caught up with her this spring to find out how the past school year has been, and what other new community groups can learn from Marlin’s experiences.
Marlin set up the lunch program in 2015 alongside collaborator Diane Mather, with advice from public health nurse Carol Tomiyama and ongoing consultation with Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids. The program has volunteer support from the Acadian Networking Group, as well as some financial support from the Calgary Co-op Community Foundation and Save-On Foods.
The Acadia community group’s original goal was to provide lunches four days a week to students at Acadia School, an elementary school, and David Thompson School, a middle school.
Today, the group provides meals and snacks three days a week to three schools, Acadia School, David Thompson School and Foundations for the Future Charter Academy. A group from the Lutheran Church of Our Saviour, a member of the Acadian Networking Group, creates lunches on the fourth day.
Whole lunches vs. top-ups
Marlin knew every child at the schools would not need a lunch, but she was surprised by how many students needed a little extra food. “A lot of kids come with something, but it’s nowhere near enough to last the full day,” Marlin says. In response, her community group has focused less on sandwiches and more on “grab and gobble” items like cheese and crackers, vegetarian meatballs, fruit and veggie cups and hard-boiled eggs. Because Marlin’s group is providing top-up food, it is now able to help feed 300 students at each school—twice as many as Marlin’s group originally expected.
Lesson learned: When it comes to providing nutrition to students with different needs (and at different growth-spurt stages), snack-sized items are key.
Marlin belongs to McDougall United Church, which is part of the Acadian Networking Group. Her community group recently received a United Church Conference Grant, which is a one-time-only grant for neighbourhood-based initiatives. “The lunch program fit the criteria perfectly,” Marlin says. The grant supports lunch program costs as well as two other McDougall United Church programs: an edible gardening program and the church’s existing community meals program. The Acadian Networking Group received a grant from the Calgary Co-op Community Foundation. This funding bought supplies for a baking day Marlin’s group held recently. The volunteers worked with David Thompson ME to WE leadership program students to bake cookies, muffins and granola. “We probably have enough baking now to last us until the end of the school year,” Marlin says.
Lesson learned: If you investigate and explore different opportunities you can discover various types of funding to support your group.
During the school year, Marlin discovered that some students didn’t need lunch—but they did need breakfast. The volunteers came up with an instant oatmeal mix packed with protein-rich extras like dried fruit, oats, lentil flour and skim milk powder. The packs are stored in the offices at Acadia School, David Thompson School and Foundations for the Future Charter Academy, and students access the packs as needed, “It’s delicious,” Marlin says. “Especially the one with the dried cherries and the chocolate chips.”
Lesson learned: When you’re creative and flexible, you can meet the changing needs of your community.
What do the kids think?
Marlin says her group had a letter from a student thanking them for the lunches, which the student said kept her and her family supported during a time of financial instability. The children involved with meal-making through the ME to WE leadership program made individual cards for each volunteer they worked with. Feedback like this that comes directly from students is tremendously motivating for the volunteers. Once, when volunteers were delivering food to David Thompson School, a boy came over and said “Are you the ladies from the church who bring the food? Thank you. They’re excellent lunches.”
Lesson learned: Keep going. It makes a difference.
Find out how to get involved with a community group or learn how to create your own here.
May 5, 2016
#GiftALunch! The incredible Prosser Charitable Foundation has pledged a donation of $60,000 if BB4CK receives 240 gifts by June 15th. Gifts of all sizes make a difference, and every dollar helps feed kids in our city so they can grow, learn and play. Grab your family, friends, co-workers and neighbours, share Jacob’s story, then visit http://bb4ck.org/donate-now and #GiftALunch today to help our community reach a total of 240 gifts. It is amazing what we can do together!
April 4, 2016
National Volunteer Week is April 10 to 16, 2016 and we are celebrating all the amazing volunteers who share their time, talent and energy to help feed kids in our city. We are so grateful and inspired by the tireless dedication and passion of all of our volunteers and we are so proud to count each one of these people as part of the BB4CK community! At our kitchen we currently have 44 core volunteers who join us each week to help ensure there are no hungry kids in Calgary. We also have 10 to 15 core volunteers who cover Fridays and sick/vacation coverage at the kitchen. This month we shine the kitchen volunteer spotlight on Michelle, Dom and William, and Jennah, Vincent and Pat!
On Monday and Tuesday mornings you can find Dom, Michelle and William Dow at our kitchen, prepacking the day’s lunch bins with yogurt, a fruit, a veggie and a snack. The Dow family discovered BB4CK when a friend posted on her Facebook page about her company’s involvement. “At the time we were looking for somewhere to invest a little volunteer time that would work with our work and family schedule. We looked up what BB4CK was all about and sent an email in seeing if they could accommodate the time in our schedule.” Opportunities aligned perfectly and the Dow’s have been volunteering at the kitchen now for just over a year.
“Not only is it a great way to help children who would otherwise go without, but it keeps perspective in our lives. We accidentally missed sending our son to school with lunch one day before we started volunteering at BB4CK. The feeling we carried with us for the rest of the week was unbearable. So to think that many children have to try and function on a daily basis without lunch is heartbreaking. We were fortunate that his teacher was able to buy him a sandwich so he didn’t go without that day. She described it to us as “an act of kindness she tries to model for the children in her class.” We decided to take that kindness and generosity and pay it forward. Every week we try and model this same act of kindness to our son by informing him about what we do and getting him to participate with us when he can. The fact we can be part of a great organization who help children everyday is our favorite part about volunteering. We are grateful for an organization which touches close to home, who have welcomed us into their family and who are making a difference in our future and our children’s future. Thank you BB4CK for all that you do.” – Michelle, Dom and William Dow
On Wednesday and Thursday mornings you can find Jennah, Vincent and Pat at the kitchen helping in a number of ways; cutting veggies, packing and sealing veggies or snacks, or cleaning out the returned lunch bins. Jennah and Vincent have been volunteering together with BB4CK since March 2014 and Pat just recently started in the kitchen three months ago.
“I work for Chrysalis. Chrysalis is a Calgary day program for adults with intellectual disabilities. Chrysalis finds volunteer sites for our clients all over the city of Calgary. Our Volunteer Coordinator got in touch with BB4CK about 2-3 years ago, and our clients have volunteered at the kitchen ever since. We are lucky we were placed with BB4CK! We absolutely love volunteering our time at BB4CK, the kitchen is a wonderful place for our clients. They are taught different things during their time in the kitchen that provide them with skills they otherwise might not get. Brown Bagging staff are the most wonderful people and are always so inviting. We are always treated with the utmost respect. My clients are so happy volunteering here, they look forward to coming on their days and so do I!!” – Jennah Desjardins
March 7, 2016
One of the longest-standing community groups in the Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids community is located at Crossroads Community Church. Facilitated by John Estabrooks, the BB4CK program at Crossroads began to take shape in the fall of 2008 and in January 2009 volunteers started preparing and delivering lunches to four schools in their neighborhood. In 2010 they added their fifth school and have supported these schools for the past seven years.
Currently, Crossroads creates lunches with the help of three different volunteer groups. “We have a Monday group, a Wednesday group, and I look after lunches on Friday, we just have one school that has Friday lunches,” shares Estabrooks. “From early on our Monday group came to be a group of retired ladies,” says Estabrooks, “we’ve had ladies from the community who attend the Ascension Lutheran church up the road and the ladies here from Crossroads. They have become their own little unit and look after Mondays.”
Gillian, Marge, Elsie, Jo, Peggy and Anne make up the dedicated Monday volunteer group. “Gillian does the organizing, she does the menu and shopping and all kinds of prep,” explains Estabrooks, “the organizing of who is going to eat what, that’s Gillian.” As a former lunch room supervisor, Gillian manages the kitchen and shopping with ease and preps lunch items for the Monday and Wednesday volunteer groups, “if you do the extra prep work it’s easier on the other volunteers, and I like to be organized” she says. Gillian truly enjoys her work and the company of her fellow volunteers – “it gives me purpose” she explains, “it’s very rewarding.” The other volunteers echo Gillian’s statements, grateful for the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children and for the fun and friendship they experience with their group. Marge shares that “lunches are important; they give children the opportunity to learn better.” Her advice to potential community volunteers? “Give it a try, you’ll probably like it.”
The Wednesday group is made up of six volunteers: John, Larry, David, Richard, Linda and Roy. Their group is featured in the video below. Both groups are lively and joyful and passionate about making a difference in the lives of those in their community. “You meet needs, you help people as you can, you play together,” says Estabrooks, “it’s a neat thing and Brown Bagging is a pivotal part of that for us.”
Learn more about volunteering with a community group.
Kids Impacted Daily
People Volunteering Weekly
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