“I always wanted to do something in my community and nothing really threw itself at me like this opportunity did,” says Kim, as she seals baggies with sandwiches in them. It’s Wednesday morning and Kim and a mighty team of volunteers are making lunches in the kitchen of Symons Valley United Church in NW Calgary. Feeding kids at four schools in their neighbourhood, the volunteers swiftly slice celery, portion carrots and snacks and prepare a variety of sandwiches.
“I love getting out of the house twice a week to come and visit with our group, our little family that makes lunches together. I buy the groceries, bring them here, we make the lunches and deliver them directly to the schools. It’s nice to see this happen, because otherwise these kids wouldn’t get lunch. This might be the best nutrition they get today, so that keeps us going,” Kim shares.
Volunteers Pierre and Maryanne have volunteered for two community groups in their neighbourhood, moving from the Bow Valley Community group to Symons Valley when it began in February of 2018. “We were asked if we might move over here, they needed more help at this end of the community because this group had picked up more schools,” explains Maryanne. “If you want to get ahead in school you need good health. Part of the health side of it is having good food in your belly, healthy food leads to healthy minds. It feels good to know we are providing for these kids at school.”
“I’m the veggie king,” Pierre says with a smile, “I do the veggies, I don’t do the sandwiches, they’re too complex – they have two sides, you’ve got to fold them in the middle… I stick to veggies,” he shares with a laugh. “We’ve got a good life. We’ve worked hard and made it to retirement, and this is a good way to give back. It makes you focus on and appreciate the things going on around you. You’ve got to do your part.”
This group of volunteers who come together to care for kids in their neighbouring schools appreciate the strength of community when people work together to make a difference. “We love getting together with this gang of people every week. It’s always nice to catch up and share different stories during your week or hear what’s been going on with the schools,” says Maryanne. “We really enjoy getting together and comparing stories every week. Having fun and having a few laughs while we make lunches.”
The greater community has also gotten involved, with one of the schools the group cares for hosting a Lenten fundraiser for funds for the group’s groceries. “You make a connection when you deliver the lunches and they start getting to know who you are, you make a connection with the school,” shares Pierre.
To learn more about starting your own community group, please visit here.
Amid the hustle and bustle of Wednesday morning’s Tot Time at the Killarney-Glengarry Community Association (KGCA), volunteers Alie, Lisa, Margaret, and Alysha are gathered in the community hall’s kitchen making lunches for children in their neighbourhood. The windows between the kitchen and hall are open, and the sound of children playing fills the space.
“Most of us are moms from local schools who are helping out,” says Alie as she spreads wow butter across a slice of bread. “We support 4 schools in the area, the community association gives us the space and some donations, and COBS Marda Loop supports us too.” Since January of 2018, volunteers meet on Monday and Wednesday mornings to make lunches for 28 kids, set to make 4,200 lunches over this year.
The BB4CK Killarney Community group started taking shape last fall, when the KGCA brought together a group of people to discuss what kind of programming was needed for children in Killarney. One of the attendees was Closer to Home’s West Central Community Resource Centre (WCCRC), a current BB4CK partner. “We learned about the WCCRC’s programming, and heard about one of their programs called Brown Bagging,” says Carolyn Johnson, President of the KGCA. The Killarney community was interested in learning more and connected with BB4CK.
“When they proposed the BB4CK program, Chelsea and I said, “we can do that!” I told Chelsea I didn’t like grocery shopping and Chelsea said she didn’t like making lunches,” says Margaret, “so I said, “if you do the grocery shopping, I’ll do the lunches!” So that’s how it began.”
The group has about eight people who volunteer in various capacities, “most of us are from one school and that happened through word of mouth. One of the ladies who started the group came to the parent group and asked if anyone was interested in being involved,” says Alie. “Word kind of spread through the playground gossip line, ‘hey do you want to help out,’ and a lot of people came to us that way.” The group also advertised through their Killarney newsletter and people got involved after reading about the group feeding kids in their neighbourhood.
“I wanted something to do once my kids were in school that was for me,” explains Lisa. “This works well with my schedule. I drop the kids off at school and come and do something with a bunch of other moms. It’s great. My kids don’t go hungry so I don’t want other kids to go hungry.” Alie agrees that the group’s volunteering fits with ease, “I like that this works really well with my schedule and it’s an opportunity to help out. I think it is an important cause, feeding kids, and it’s such a simple thing. Lunch can do so much for a kid at school. It’s a way that I can really be helping in a mindful way.”
“I am a teacher myself,” says Alysha, “I’ve worked in schools over the years where kids were hungry and I saw what it does to their learning and how it affects them. No matter who you are, you shouldn’t be hungry, especially kids when they’re trying to learn and trying to do their best.”
The lunches the Killarney group makes contain a sandwich, cut up veggies, a piece of fruit, a snack and once a week a yogurt. Today’s bread and snacks are courtesy of COBS Bread, and Margaret is hard at work portioning and bagging scones and tarts. “I like that this is tangible, and hands on. That we make the lunches here and they go directly to kids,” she says as she seals half a lemon tart into a bag.
“You go to a school, see the kids and they’re running around and happy, you can’t imagine that any of them have these deep problems behind them because they’re kids and they’re running around playing,” shares Alie. “Then you see the empty [lunch delivery] box and you realize you solved that problem for them, it opens your eyes to the reality of those happy kids all running around, there are problems that you can’t simply see and there is opportunity to help.”
The group has done an amazing job of not only feeding kids, but inspiring the community around them to action too. “Lisa was at Superstore and asked if they would support us, and they asked for a letter. We did that and they gave us a gift card,” says Alie, who has reached out to a number of neighbourhood businesses for support and had a great response. “There is opportunity out there for local giving that goes unrealized if you don’t ask, and it helps supplement. People are really willing to give. COBS donates all their day end bread and that makes a big difference for us.”
“Talk to other groups, talk to your community association because they might already be involved in something and they might have funding available. I’ve connected with our school’s parent council association and one other school’s. If you can talk to them, you open up this whole world of opportunity. It might be volunteers, or a snack drive at the school dance, and ta-da, there you have a great fundraising opportunity, just through talking to different groups. There is lots of opportunity out there,” Alie explains.
“Community should be where people feel supported and I think that if people that support this program know they’re giving back locally that fosters a good feeling,” says Carolyn. “Leaning on each other for different reasons in the community is definitely what brings people together and makes them feel they belong.”
To support the Killarney community group in feeding kids, please visit here.
One of our long-time supporters, Tyler Blaney, sat down with us to share a little bit about his involvement with BB4CK and his decision to become a Hunger Hero. Tyler first became involved with BB4CK in 2009 when he saw BB4CK’s then Executive Director, Bob McInnis, speak at an event. Brown Bagging struck a chord with Tyler, and through financial support and this year, through skills based volunteering, he has helped feed Calgary kids ever since.
“Lunch is fuel. It’s nourishment, it helps children focus, learn, and cope when they otherwise couldn’t. It is fuel for life, fuel for health and well-being, mentally, physically, spiritually, everything.
I feel that children who are well fed are more focused, energized, they learn better, and are going to be better all around with a full tummy. We’re helping build our youth; we’re helping build the future generation and we need to do what we can to create more great people. Our family didn’t have a lot of money growing up. My parents were hard working, “blue-collar” people, and always did their best. It was important to my mom that I had a balanced nutritional lunch. I have children, and being able to feed kids makes me feel really good.
I give to causes that are local and impact local children and families. There are a lot of organizations out there that you don’t get to directly see the fruits of the labour. You see the work being done at BB4CK and that is really important to me. I know that my time, effort, energy, and money actually makes an impact. As a Hunger Hero, I give a monthly donation to help feed kids. The monthly donation I make, it is a constant, it is not millions of dollars but it is consistent. I see my donation come out of my account monthly and it makes me feel good. It is like a monthly affirmation.
If you’re on the fence about giving, do it! It will change you spiritually. Volunteering or donating, or doing something to help that is greater than ourselves is soul food. BB4CK is an amazing organization that helps over 4000 kids everyday who would otherwise go hungry. Even the smallest donations make the biggest impacts because it all compounds. BB4CK is the one organization I have stuck with since I started my career because it means the most to me.”
For every person who attends one of his open houses and signs up for his monthly newsletter, Tyler donates an additional $5 for help feed Calgary kids. Learn more at tylerblaney.ca.
Hunger Heroes, people who give monthly to Brown Bagging, are important to this community because they ensure consistent funding and allow us to sustainably plan for the future. Hunger Heroes are connected in a way that their regular investment in feeding kids is a consistent reminder, a regular affirmation of how valuable and how committed they are to this community.
Meet Anne and Chris, two amazing volunteers who help in multiple ways to ensure there are no hungry kids in Calgary!
Anne first discovered BB4CK when looking online for a hands-on volunteer role, and began volunteering in the downtown kitchen nine months ago. After hearing how much Anne enjoyed the kitchen and having just recently retired, Chris started volunteering four months ago! Anne and Chris are consistent volunteers in the kitchen, happy to assist with all jobs associated with kitchen mornings, whether it is baking, food preparation, assembling sandwiches, washing dishes, or mopping the floor. Chris also assists as a delivery driver, delivering lunches to various schools and community organizations, while Anne helps with accounting in the BB4CK office.
“We volunteer for BB4CK because we want to give back to our community, and we believe that all children should have access to healthy meals. There are two main things we enjoy about our volunteering. One is the people that work and volunteer in the kitchen; everyone is there to help and have a lot of fun while doing so. The other key item is that we leave the kitchen knowing that children in our community that didn’t have access to a healthy lunch will have one that day.” – Anne and Chris
Favourite lunch as a child: Surprisingly,Anne and Chris had the same favourite lunch as a child – a grilled cheese sandwich!
You’ve probably noticed the cost of your groceries going up in the last year, especially the prices of your favourite fruits and vegetables. We’ve all felt the impact of those changes – Kerry’s family is no different.
Kerry is a mom of two – Jonah, who’s in grade 4, and Sam, grade 6. Kerry is now paying more each month for the same groceries she’s always bought, and that her kids love to eat. Earlier this year, Kerry lost her job and after a few months of searching found a new one – but the salary was much lower and she had depleted a good portion of her savings.
With this salary, Kerry’s cut back on a lot of expenses, which has been hard – and one of those cuts was to her grocery budget. She’s still able to send a sandwich to school for her kids, but most days, that’s it. Kerry constantly worries about what the future holds for her family and the possibility that car trouble, home maintenance, or some other financial emergency will wipe her entire budget out.
Jonah and Sam’s school cares for their family by providing fresh fruits and vegetables at school, provided by the BB4CK community. We know the value of ensuring that lunches for kids who would otherwise go without have lots of nutritious, filling food. When they get to school, Jonah and Sam eat the sandwich their Mom, Kerry, made with love at home, alongside the bright orange carrots, crunchy apples and juicy oranges people like you provided for them. These foods are so important for kids whose families, like Kerry’s, are struggling to make ends meet.
The number of kids in need of lunches at school in Calgary has risen, alongside food prices, in the past few years. Today, there are more than twice as many children in need of healthy lunches or fresh lunch items at school each day than there were three years ago – and the BB4CK community works to respond to the needs of these kids each day.
This school year, the average lunch BB4CK provides to a hungry kid in our city will cost $2 to make and deliver. Rising food costs and a growing organization have contributed to this. We’re extremely proud to be able to provide a healthy, filling lunch for just $2 – ensuring we continue to feed and care for hungry Calgary kids. Together, we will meet the goal of having no hungry kids at school this year.
This year, your support will ensure that every kid in our city has a healthy lunch at school. You can be part of the BB4CK community – volunteer, donate or hold a project that will make a lasting difference in the lives of Calgary families