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.