Helping Kids Learn Better on A Full Stomach
One of the pleasures of my full-time job is that I get to act for a resource to non-profit groups in the community. Each of these groups are completely unique and provide sophisticated solutions to grassroot issues. Most of them are born out of passion and need. The volunteers that serve with them are some of the most altruistic people that I’ve ever met – giving their time, talent and treasure including blood, sweat and tears to make amazing things happen. Volunteers are the most valuable resource we have. These catalysts for change that are willing to get their hands dirty move mountains.
Needless to say, when my friends from Maple Leaf Foods asked me if I could Feed it Forward to a local non-profit, I was overjoyed for the chance to give back to a group that gives so much. So, I want to introduce you to the Community Lunch Box.
Whitecourt’s Community Lunch Box
So back in 2004, founder Tara Baker met a kid that didn’t have a lunch. With the determination of a small group of parent volunteers, she began to ensure that all children attending schools in Whitecourt would have the nutrition they need for optimal growth and development during the school day. What she has achieved is truly incredible – the Community Lunch Box operates at almost every school, and even some playschools, in Whitecourt. Each site provides a Bag Lunch program. At two other schools in the area, they also operate a breakfast program. More recently, they have even started a cooking club program with grade 5’s to teach them how to make nutritious snacks, meals and learn basic kitchen skills.
Tara is a fireball of energy whose passion lights up the room. She doesn’t do it all alone though – she has a lively crew who are from all walks of life. Every day at 9 am, in 6 schools across Whitecourt the volunteers are busy in the kitchens getting the snacks ready for the lunch rush. Tara graciously invited me to hang out at Central School one morning to talk to the volunteers and the Volunteer Coordinator to understand how this all happens.
Hanging out with amazing volunteers
Trish, the Volunteer Coordinator of the Community Lunch Box is the lady coordinates all of what is happening. She graciously allowed me to invade their kitchen and took me on a round of several schools to show the work that is happening there. Trish shops for the food, prepares the food, and with help, makes sure each school has what it needs.
The day I visited, the volunteers were peeling a boatload of carrots. In one day, they can go through more than a dozen packages in each school, when you add this up it means they are creating almost 80 snack bags of carrots every single day. Amazed at how many carrots, I watched as a delivery person came in with cases on cases of apples, turns out they also go through over 14 cases every single week. That’s a lot!
How it works
Community Bag Lunch
Each school that participates has a fridge. The fridge gets checked and restocked as needed by volunteers each day with bins that includes carrots, granola bars, yogurt tubes and fruit. A few schools even have sandwiches if a need has been identified. The teachers will bring kids who do not have a lunch down to get items from the fridge. The bins allows kids to choose how much they need.
This society doesn’t end here – they also provide apples as well, have a bottle drop-off that helps fund their activities, employ people with disabilities and are in the process of building a volunteer centre to help the sustainability of programs for the the future.
Food is a powerful means to build community. The reality is Canada is that 1 in 8 families and 1 in 6 children face hunger on a regular basis. So I’m challenging you to share the stories of the people and organizations in your community who go above and beyond to make people’s lives better with good food. Click here to nominate these organizations to receive a $10,000 and a year’s worth of groceries from Maple Leaf Canada for you & your organization. Can you imagine what a difference that could make?
Here in Alberta, non-profit organizations are seeing a drop in sponsorship dollars and in-kind donations, programs like these need your support to continue. I donated to my Community Lunch Box program too, in the form of a gift card to help buy more cases of apples, carrots and yogurt tubes that were on sale this week.
Isn’t it time you gave back too?
This blog post was sponsored by Maple Leaf Foods but the opinions are completely my own based on my experience.