Every day in Calgary, there are thousands of students who attend school without the ability to take lunch with them.
Brown Bagging 4 Calgary Kids (BB4CK) has been doing something about it.
BB4CK is a local, volunteer-run charity, that provides lunches and snacks to students who do not have the means or access to daily lunches.
According to Marcela Zafra, BB4CK’s Marketing and Communications Specialist, BB4CK completely relies on volunteers and is solely funded by donations.
BB4CK feeds over 5500 kids a day, Monday to Friday, in over 220 schools in the city.
“Fifty per cent of the lunches are made in our downtown main kitchen where corporate groups and regular volunteers come in every morning to make lunches.”
Corporate groups, such as Bright Wire Leadership, come in monthly to give back to the community and help the regular volunteers prepare, cook and package the lunches and snacks.
“It’s a small way to give back to the community. Kids need to eat while at school and if a few hours of our morning can help deliver that, we will do it,” stated Christine Dagenais, Founder and CEO of Bright Wire.
Feeding over 5500 kids a day is a lot for one kitchen to do every day thus, BB4CK has community kitchens to help as well.
“We have over 30 community groups or smaller groups that make between 50 and 200 lunches every day, that make and deliver the lunches to the schools closer to the community. So, they’re feeding kids in their own community,” says Zafra.
BB4CK has hard-working volunteers who come regularly to prepare and deliver the food for the students, but with the rise in inflation, the cost of food has gone up drastically, ultimately using more of the donations for the same amount of food.
Fortunately, some of the food suppliers have granted the charity a food price lock to feel less of the pain caused by the food inflation.
For example, the cost of celery has gone up over 120 per cent in the last year alone.
While the charity isn’t feeling the full extent of the increase in food costs, the families of the students are.
“It’s mostly the families that we’re seeing that are [suffering from the] impact of inflation. So, what we’re seeing is an increase in the number of kids. This September, we are feeding way more kids than we were feeding last September.”
These families were also affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most, if not all, of these families, rely on BB4CK to feed their children while at school, but online school meant no access to lunches or snacks.
BB4CK stepped in and created an alternative solution for the families. Instead of preparing and providing food for the students, they coordinated with the Calgary Board of Education (CBE), to provide grocery cards.
“We gave grocery cards to kids that were learning at home. We’ve had over 1,700 kids with grocery cards. It was really amazing because communities came together, and people were decorating the envelopes with this card for the kids and for the families.”
Although pandemic restrictions are over, these students still need access to the lunches and snacks that BB4CK provides.
Additionally, BB4CK and the CBE do not have criteria for students to partake in this program. If a student needs food, the school will tell the charity to increase the school’s number of lunches they provide.
It’s mostly the families that we’re seeing that are [suffering from the] impact of inflation. So, what we’re seeing is an increase in the number of kids. This September, we are feeding way more kids than we were feeding last September. – Marcela Zafra
It costs BB4CK $250 to feed a single student, so a good way to help the charity is to volunteer at one of the kitchens or donate money, which buys the necessary groceries for the meals.
While the names of the schools and the students who receive the lunches are confidential, it is clear to the admin of the schools and the families of the students, that this program works. BB4CK undoubtedly changes the education and lives of so many students in Calgary.
For more information about BB4CK, go to www.bb4ck.org to inquire.