“Our school is in a high needs area where many families struggle to provide adequate meals for their families. Thanks to the support of Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids, many of our students have healthy food options to eat throughout the day. Every day students come to utilize the snacks that are provided. Without these they would have nothing to eat. The sandwiches, fruit and veggies are provided during our lunch program, which supplements those students who would not have enough to eat throughout the day otherwise. The students are always excited to choose from the options provided, as for many students these types of food are not purchased in their homes. Many students will even ask if they can take snacks home for their younger siblings to eat. This program assists our students in learning, as without proper nutrition we know learning does not occur. We would like to thank you for your continued support as it makes such a difference in our school community.”
Meet Fiona, BB4CK’s Community Coordinator:
“As Community Coordinator I look after our community groups of volunteers throughout the city. I have been associated with BB4CK since 2015. I wanted to get involved with an organisation that provided food support to kids who did not have enough to eat at home (for various reasons). I started volunteering with a community group in Ranchlands and went on to lead a community group as a volunteer in Varsity. I enjoy my work with BB4CK for a number of reasons, I believe in our vision “communities that make sure all kids are fed”; I have a job that suits me in every way and lets me take positive action to achieve this vision; I respect and am inspired by my colleagues and I like working with volunteers. My favourite part about working with BB4CK is enabling a community group to grow from an idea into reality and working with all our amazing volunteers.” – Fiona
Fiona’s favorite lunch as a child – Lincolnshire sausages, beans and mashed potatoes. Lunch was always hot when I was young!
In 2002, Christy Switzer chose to work with a small organization called Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Street Kids for her university practicum. This choice set Christy on a new adventure and helped shape BB4CK into the organization it is today. “The simplicity of it was, there are kids who are hungry and we are going to feed them. I liked that. You could do so much with that. I got involved initially in the practicum and just kind of never left,” says Christy.
At that time, Brown Bagging was small; it was operating out of the downtown kitchen creating lunches for partner organizations, like CUPS and Alpha House, supporting hungry youth living on the street. In 2005, Bob McInnis came on as the new Executive Director, and the organization started learning more about hungry students needing help in Calgary schools.
“Our mission was to feed kids that were hungry, and they were hungry in schools,” says Christy. “Schools were doing the best they could but there were no breakfast clubs, snack programs, really no other supports, so we took that on as our mission to get into schools.” That year, Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Street Kids removed street from its name and started working with Calgary schools. “When we got into schools, we grew as quickly as possible and were doing over 1,000 lunches each day within the first year or so of starting the school program.”
“One story I remember is about a child who didn’t know what a pineapple was, had never eaten a pineapple and she tried it, loved it, and wanted more and wanted to know how to spell the word, it was this big thing for her. Through the modelling of what a good lunch looked like, and from removing the weight from the family of needing to provide lunches five days a week, they started seeing healthy lunches coming two days a week from the child’s family. This school learned that the parents had the desire to send good lunches, but they wouldn’t be full, or sometimes they’d be makeshift leftovers or fast food. Once the school started providing veggies sticks, sandwiches, and fruit, home started providing sandwiches, veggie sticks and fruit.” Christy continues, “Schools would tell us that parents would call asking if there’d be lunches at school this week and they’d say yes, every week, whenever you need, and the parent would say “great, thank you, then we can have dinners.” More often than not, parents are doing the best they can and if the kids are not eating, the adult at home has not eaten for days. They are so hungry and so tired and in that positon, how do you cope?”
“I started at Brown Bagging when I was 22. My first 6 years with Brown Bagging were spent on the board, and my last 4 years were spent on staff. It was formative, it taught me If you put your hand up and are willing to do the work you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room or have all the answers. If you put your hand up you get to go do the thing. It showed me what is possible, what can happen when you are the person who raises your hand when there is work to be done,” says Christy.
Today, Christy’s company, I Know A Guy Renovations, donates 100 lunches on behalf of every renovation they do. Their team volunteers in the kitchen often, and Christy shares that “it’s so amazing to bring our trades in and expose people to something they’ve maybe not had the chance to see before. Brown Bagging is my charity of choice forever. I love it so much. I encourage other business owners to pick two or three causes that really resonate with you, go somewhere, and do something where you can see the impact and become involved in something. Get to know the organization, how it is growing and the cause. Get involved.”
Meet three of our wonderful volunteers taking action to feed and care for hungry kids in our city – Nicole, Denis, and Tony. Nicole started volunteering with BB4CK about three years ago, and has inspired her family and friends to help feed kids too!
Nicole – “I started following BB4CK on Facebook after getting involved with Mealshare. BB4CK shared a post requesting volunteer drivers so I signed up and instantly loved it. I started coordinating volunteers in the kitchen for Mealshare 2 years ago and have loved being involved and getting to know all the fabulous people that volunteer and want to do good for the kids of Calgary. It truly is a wonderful community to be part of. My favourite part of delivering lunches is knowing that this small act could be changing a kid’s circumstance. Food insecurity can create many other problems that will affect the outcome of a child’s life. That’s why I love when I see “lunch is love”. Also, selfishly, I love it because it makes me feel good. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in our own life bubble and be a bit oblivious to what’s going on around us. It’s impossible to feel bad about yourself when you are doing something good for someone else.”
Denis – “One day my daughter Nicole asked if I would be interested in coming with her to deliver lunches for BB4CK. She had been volunteering for this organization and others for some time. I had recently retired and thought this would be a good opportunity to help, and keep me off the couch. She filled me in on the tremendous need and off we went. I was amazed at how many lunches and how many volunteers are required every day. I have been trying to deliver lunches twice a week ever since. Where it really hit home, about the need for BB4CK, is one day I delivered to a high school and a young fellow greeted me at the lunch room door, took the lunch box, said thank you and immediately opened it and grabbed a sandwich. I got in my car had a few moments to myself and carried on. If anyone is looking for some fulfillment in their retirement this is the program.”
Tony – “I found out about BB4CK from my wife and her friendship with Nicole. Having retired a year and a half ago, I was looking for an organization that I could dedicate some time to and what better than BB4CK to help ensure all students have a nourishing lunch to help in their learning process. Up until I started my volunteer driver position, I had no idea that this organization existed. I’m happy to be able to help ensure that lunches get to the schools. I was flabbergasted that it has become necessary to provide the number of lunches BB4CK does on a weekly basis to ensure every student has adequate nourishment to continue to learn. The most fulfilling part of delivering is the heartfelt thanks you receive from the school staff when the bins are delivered and of course the interaction with the other volunteers and staff.”
Meet Joanne, a donor making a difference in the lives of Calgary kids:
“As a former food writer, child safety instructor, and literacy advocate, I have long been aware the situation for Calgary’s children is far from equitable. When I first got involved with BB4CK back around 2005, I was semi-retired and it was a time I looked to support projects and programs that do the practical daily work of setting things right – as best as possible. BB4CK fit the bill for my goals, then and now. Originally I delivered the big boxes of lunches to the schools with my husband and since then, have contributed through financial support. Frankly, it’s the least I can do.
I grew up in a time – yep, way back in the 50s – when our moms expected us home everyday for lunch.
BB4CK, today, does what those ‘mom’ lunches did for kids back then – fill hollow legs, refuel bodies, fire up brains for more schoolwork, and make kids feel deeply cared for.
One of the Lunch Bag Art thank you’s I saw at the BB4CK kitchen and another I received from a young student said simply: Lunch = Love. Couldn’t have put it better!
That’s what BB4CK means to me and why I’m in for the long haul.” – Joanne