Calgary organization helping families struggling to provide school lunches

Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids has a goal of raising $100,000 this year

By Leanne Murray | September 6, 2022 |5:00 am

BB4CK feeds approximately 5,400 Calgary students every day.

Photo: Submitted

Students are back in class, and the unfortunate reality is that many Calgary families will struggle to provide school lunches.

That’s where a local organization called Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids (BB4CK) comes in.

For the past 32 years, BB4CK has been on a mission to make sure no kid goes to school hungry.

The organization has provided countless free, healthy lunches for local K-12 students in need and now feeds more than 5,400 kids every day at 220 Calgary schools.

Struggling to afford food

According to BB4CK executive director Bethany Ross, one-in-six Calgary children live in food-insecure households.

With inflation and the cost of living only getting higher, Ross expects the need for the program will continue to grow.

“We’ve already started to see some increases,” she says, based on some year-round schools that returned in August.

Ross says BB4CK is preparing to respond to the growing need.

“As kids get back to school and adapt to their classrooms, their teachers get to know them and just see what the need looks like.”

The impacts of hunger in school

Ross says attending class with an empty stomach has a negative ripple effect on a student.

“Going to school hungry can have a dramatic and life-altering impact on kids as their energy levels, problem-solving skills, creativity, and concentration are affected,” she says.

Nutritional components are extra important for a child’s growing body and physical health, Ross adds.

Students who go to school hungry can also reportedly lose an average of 132 minutes of learning each day.

“They’re not able to focus or concentrate or listen to their teacher or be learning,” says Ross.

BB4CK has a mission to ensure no child goes to school hungry.

Connections made with food

Another important aspect, Ross adds, is the connections that can be lost if a student isn’t eating with the rest of their classmates.

“You are missing out. You’re hiding in the stairwell or waiting in the washroom until it’s time to go outside for recess and where you can pretend that you’re not hungry,” she says.

“You’re missing all the things that happen in that cafeteria — all the jokes and the friendships. You’re missing all of those social connections.”

Ross encourages Calgarians to have conversations about food insecurity and ensure families know about the BB4CK program.

“Connecting with families… who might be struggling around food, to make sure they know that this is a resource that’s available for their kids and that they can connect through the school.”

How the community can help

BB4CK has launched its annual fundraising campaign and has a goal of bringing in $100,000 by the end of September.

“100 per cent of Brown Bagging’s budget is provided by community donations,” says Ross.

“We hope Calgary will join us in combating food insecurity as we aim to send every kid to school with a full belly and a full mind this year.”

All donations will also be matched up to $100,000 by Qualico Calgary and the Matt Rumpel Family Foundation. Donations are accepted online and at all Calgary Co-op locations until Sept. 30.

Approximately 300 volunteers are also needed every week to make and deliver lunches.

“Folks who can volunteer in one of our kitchens, who can drive their own vehicles to deliver food, who can help in any of those ways are incredibly valuable,” says Ross.

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Leanne Murray

Leanne is a Calgary Citizen reporter.

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