August 12, 2015
Every school day in Calgary 2,500 nutritious lunches are delivered to children who would otherwise go without, made by people they have never met. The lunch-makers volunteer their time, waking up early and joining together across the city to do something people have been doing for years – packing lunches for school. Put some turkey and cheese on bread and wrap it up, or spread pea butter (our kitchen is nut-free) and jam on a bun, slice up carrots and celery, bake muffins and granola bars. Complete lunches head out the door in time for the school lunch bell.
Why? Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids (BB4CK) is committed to making sure every student in Calgary who would otherwise go without has access to a healthy lunch at school.
This is the power of community, neighbors helping neighbors, regular people recognizing a need they can help fill, and doing something about it. 2,500 kids receive a nutritious lunch because someone cares enough to make a meal for them. Their lunch allows them to learn and grow in a healthy way, with their peers and in their own communities.
“I can taste the love in this sandwich.”
– A young boy eating a lunch created by BB4CK volunteers
Unfortunately, in many family budgets, the amount spent on groceries is the easiest budget line to change – rent, car payments, etc. are tougher to vary each month. When unexpected changes occur in a family situation – job loss, health issues, or other challenges arise – their budget changes. This may result in a family purchasing primarily more readily available, processed foods, or it may result in them relying on our friends at the Calgary Food Bank.
Sometimes, families are able to send something – a granola bar, a sandwich – for their child’s lunch. Families do what they can, with the resources they have. Sometimes, they are unable to provide anything for a school lunch. For whatever reason, if a student is without a full, nutritious lunch, their teachers can rely on the BB4CK community to help provide one.
A study was recently released by Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention, Alberta Food Matters, and the University of Alberta that highlights the issue of child hunger in schools across our province.[i] The study shows that 53% of the surveyed schools have access to free food at school, and 62% of teachers provide food that is available to students. Beyond that, Alberta’s Poverty Reduction Strategy showed that in 2010, 11.8% of children in Alberta were living in poverty.[ii] 8.3% of families in Alberta are considered to be food insecure[iii] – the quantity or quality of food they have is compromised.
BB4CK provides over 2,500 students with lunches created by over 2,000 generous volunteers. We are working in over 150 of the nearly 340 schools in Calgary, connecting with caring teachers and administrators to help identify students who are hungry. Over the next year we will continue to reach out to the approximately 120 schools in Calgary who have not yet connected with us. This will ensure that all Calgary schools have the information and opportunity to identify kids who are hungry and connect with BB4CK to help provide them lunch.
BB4CK continues to successfully feed Calgary’s hungry children with the financial support of our friends and neighbors. Last year, we received donations from 550 individuals, families, companies and groups to help meet our $800,000 budget. We are sustainable because our funding comes from a variety of sources – thanks to our generous supporters BB4CK is secure in its operations.
As we anticipate the upcoming school year and the years beyond, the need for each of us to take part in and impact our community is growing. Many people and organizations are working hard to address root cause issues and end child poverty in Alberta; solutions are still years away. BB4CK continues to encourage and empower Calgarians to support and care for one another.
The BB4CK community is responding to the current increase in need and working toward our goal of ensuring healthy lunches are provided to students who would otherwise go hungry. Caring Calgarians will continue to succeed in building strong, healthy communities, together. We see a future with no hungry kids and we invite you to join us.
June 1, 2015
Alex Brown, Society of Petroleum Engineers (or SPE) Events Specialist, describes this volunteer endeavor as a give-back initiative from one nonprofit organization to another. Brown’s colleague Rudeen Hoffman, Senior Events Coordinator, had volunteered for BB4CK in the past and believes in the work of the organization. Hoffman reached out to Jill Birch from BB4CK, who referred her to Michelle Couture, Diversity Learning Teacher at St. Stephen School.
Brown says the experience was thoroughly positive. “We had guidelines to follow from BB4CK on allergies, cross contamination and hand washing. We made lunches with our staff of about 13 in our conference room, over two days, and Rudeen and a few helpers delivered them to St. Stephen School.”
Couture says her school typically sees lunch needs increase just after Christmas and toward the end of each month, as families anticipate their next paycheque. St. Stephen welcomes students from a vast demographic range, some of whom have limited means or whose families who are new to the country.
According to Couture, there are days when 20 children might come to school without the necessities. While Couture often purchases groceries with funding from BB4CK and provides lunches herself, she says it’s great when other organizations get involved. She observes a major difference in her students after a nutritious meal. “When they’re hungry or tired they’re not ready to work,” Couture says. She adds that St. Stephen is lucky to have the support of BB4CK and the Society of Petroleum Engineers. “For our students, knowing they can get lunch at school lessens their burden. They don’t have to feel bad about asking for it.”
Brown and her colleagues are looking forward to the opportunity to repeat the experience. “It was a good time for all of us,” Brown says. “We’ve already talked about doing it again because we enjoyed it so much. It got all of us out of our work bubbles.”
Find out how your corporate group can get involved with BB4CK.
June 1, 2015
Recently, her group has seen increased need for lunches at one of the four schools it serves, and so far the group has been able to manage that need. The main thing, says Tuplin, is knowing what her group can and can’t handle.
“Usually it’s just a matter of buying a bit more food and sending the new numbers to the volunteers, and then it takes a little more volunteer time,” Tuplin says. The group stores supplies and makes lunches in the commercial kitchen of the Westview Baptist Church in Ranchlands. Tuplin says the kitchen is excellent, but because it’s used by several other community groups, she has to be realistic about her group’s capacity. “It’s a busy kitchen,” Tuplin says.
A few years earlier, one of the schools Tuplin’s group served experienced a sudden spike in need — more than the group could manage. “When Terrace Road School was needing a lot more, we had to assess whether we could handle those numbers. We had limited space,” Tuplin says. Realizing her group couldn’t meet that school’s needs on its own, Tuplin worked with BB4CK to find an alternative solution. Today, Terrace Road School lunches are made by youth volunteers at Varsity Bible Church , students at William Taylor Learning Centre and the BB4CK kitchen.
The group’s origins
Tuplin’s started the group in 2007, when she became aware of the organization’s needs. “As a parent myself it tugged at my heartstrings to see a child hungry who I could help so easily,” Tuplin says.
At the time, BB4CK was exploring ways to serve schools in the city’s northwest communities better. Using a small kitchen at the Friends Church facility in Bowness, Tuplin gathered a group of volunteers and began making lunches for three schools, three days a week. The group has continued, with volunteers old and new, and Tuplin has been its manager and champion from the start. “For the impact that it’s making, it’s not a lot of work,” Tuplin says. “I’ve been doing it for so long it’s second nature, and I’ll continue doing it for as long as there’s a need and a space to do it in and volunteers to help me.”
Tuplin’s idea took hold in Calgary — today, there are approximately 20 community groups similar to Tuplin’s and another 80 school community groups making lunches for students through BB4CK.
Tuplin’s group today
The group serves four schools four days a week: Belvedere Parkway School, Bowcroft School, Our Lady of the Assumption School and H.D. Cartwright Junior High School. Three years ago the group relocated from its original Bowness kitchen to a larger, more commercial facility at Westview Baptist Church in Ranchlands.
While the group purchases groceries using BB4CK gift cards, the administration, lunch-making and distribution is organized by Tuplin and her rotating team of about 18 volunteers, which sometimes includes her own three grown children. “They’ve been really great in that way,” Tuplin says. “My daughter has just graduated as a teacher, and she’s started subbing so she’ll be in the school system and she’ll see those same needs.”
Despite the challenges, Tuplin says whenever a school contacts her to let her know their students’ needs have changed, she sees it as a positive development. “It shows me that they’re really responding and I have a good handle on what’s happening in their schools,” Tuplin says. “It tells me it’s really working.”
Find out more about BB4CK community groups.
April 15, 2015
At BB4CK, we love volunteers. They make our work possible, and in our opinion, every week of the year should be devoted to celebrating their efforts. Volunteer and administration coordinator Wendy Treschel says BB4CK is able to have a huge impact in Calgary because of volunteers.
“Many come to the program because they wouldn’t want their own children to go hungry, or because they remember what it felt like to be a hungry child. Our volunteers are so committed that even if they are unable to help during the day, they help with office work, social media, casinos and various other jobs. We couldn’t do it without them.”
Want to find out why BB4CK volunteers are so passionate about the work they do? Find out how you can get involved.
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