September 4, 2015

Introducing a new community group In Acadia

At a meeting of the Acadian Networking Group in early 2015, Catherine Marlin learned that some children in Acadia were coming to school without lunches. “Of course, my question was, ‘What are we going to do about it?’” Marlin says.

Marlin showed up at the next meeting with a proposal to conduct a trial run of a group that would make and deliver lunches to schools in the neighbourhood. Following a successful six-week pilot program in May and June of 2015, Marlin and her group have spent the summer break planning and preparing for the 2015 – 2016 school year.

Finding support

Marlin says it wasn’t difficult to find community support for the project. The Acadian Networking Group — which represents several organizations and institutions in Acadia including Marlin’s church, McDougall United Church, the Elks Club, CUPS and neighbourhood schools — has proven an excellent starting place. Marlin has worked alongside collaborator Diane Mather to secure funding and volunteer support for the community group project, and many others have been just as eager to help.

 Marlin’s grandson Jack and his friends conduct a bottle drive to raise funds to support the lunch project. Marlin’s grandson Jack and his friends conduct a bottle drive to raise funds to support the lunch project.

“As soon as I said I wanted to get people together to make lunches, someone tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘I want to get involved,’” Marlin says.

Reaching out to Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids early in the process helped Marlin identify and connect with schools and get information about organizing the group, nutritional standards and food handling. The organization still checks in with Marlin regularly to see how her group is progressing and answer any questions that arise. Through the Acadian Networking Group, Marlin and Mather met Carol Tomiyama, a public health nurse who gave them useful nutrition advice.

Meeting early challenges

Marlin says the initial six-week trial period was a valuable learning experience. “I had no idea how many vegetarian kids there would be in a school!” Marlin has been experimenting with recipes over the summer with help from Mather’s daughter, who is working toward a master’s degree in nutrition and eats a vegan diet.

Securing funding and volunteer support have been the primary challenges in establishing the community group, according to Marlin, but she says neither has proven difficult to overcome. Marlin’s extensive network and church community were eager to get involved and volunteer to provide lunches for children in the community.

Currently, Marlin is in the process of applying for a funding grant from the United Church. Two grocery stores in the community have provided gift cards for food supplies: Save-On Foods is providing gift cards on a weekly basis and Calgary Co-op (through the Co-op Foundation) has given the group a lump sum with an eye to contributing on an ongoing basis. Marlin is confident a third store will come on board this fall. Individuals are finding ways to help too. “An old friend gave me $500 just because he wanted to support the program — a 92-year-old man,” Marlin says.

Other challenges arose along the way. Acadia School was initially reluctant to accept lunches from Marlin’s group because the school had no on-site fridge. Marlin’s son and grandson gathered a few friends and did a bottle drive, which raised enough money to purchase a fridge for the school — with $100 to spare.

Acadia School principal Barbara James with Jack Marlin after the installation of the new fridge. Acadia School principal Barbara James with Jack Marlin after the installation of the new fridge.

McDougall United Church has a full commercial kitchen that it provides to Marlin’s community group, and a second church in the area, Lutheran Church of Our Saviour, has offered its help. Lord Beaverbrook High School has a foods program that will contribute baked goods, and the southeast elementary campus of the Foundations for the Future Charter Academy is tentatively planning to contribute soups and muffins.

Putting it all into practice

As the school year gets underway, Marlin is providing or arranging lunches four days a week for students at Acadia School, an elementary school, and David Thompson, a middle school.

What advice does Marlin have for Calgarians who are considering providing lunches to children in their own neighbourhoods? “Just try it. Just do it. It’s amazing how many people will come forward to help you.”

Find out how to get involved with a community group or learn how to create your own here.

September 4, 2015

Volunteers share: “How do you feel when you make lunches for kids who would otherwise go without?”

Through the work of volunteers and community groups Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids provides about 2,500 lunches each school day. BB4CK is so grateful for our volunteers’ contributions of time, talent and energy. We spoke with a few of our kitchen volunteers and asked “how do you feel when you make lunches for kids who would otherwise go without?”


Support BB4CK by donating now and find out how you can become a BB4CK volunteer.

August 12, 2015

One goal: no hungry kids in Calgary

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

SPE Gives Energy to St. Stephen School

SPE members make lunches in the boardroom.

Once a year, the Calgary chapter of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, a worldwide member organization for energy-sector professionals, donates time to a local charity.

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.

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