Battling hunger in Calgary schools

Imagine starting every day hungry, unable to focus on your work and to what people are saying because your stomach is growling and your head is pounding. Unfortunately, this is a reality for too many kids in our city.

juiceFood Banks Canada says 310,461 children in school are helped each month at food banks across Canada, which is equal to 6,200 full school buses full of kids.

But, Calgary’s hungry children are outnumbering the national average. Of the 132,000 Calgarians that accessed the food bank this past year, 43 per cent of them were children — seven per cent higher than the rest of Canada.

To combat this and other issues with hunger in our community, there are 110 community agencies supported through the Calgary Food Bank Food Link program. Of these organizations, many of them working with children and youth.

One of the initiatives helping to reach hungry kids is the “All In” for Youth program – a collaboration with the United Way and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary aimed at reducing our high school dropout rate.  Now in its third year, “All In” for Youth Success Coaches are in 20 Calgary schools as the key contact for struggling youth.

guyEthan Backwell, Success Coach from Father Lacombe High School, says he works with teachers and staff to identify at-risk youth dealing with challenges and barriers to their academic success, one of the biggest being food insecurity.

Backwell says that his school provides food to an average of 50 students per day, adding he can go through more than 150 food items, like granola bars, each day. In February alone, Father Lacombe High School provided snacks for over 2,000 students through Food Link.

“There are just so many students that don’t want to talk about [their food insecurity] and maybe it’s a pride thing,” Backwell says. “I’m pretty sure if you tapped on most students’ shoulders here they could benefit from some extra support somewhere.”

“We’re super grateful that we have access to (food),” he added. “Without the support, I don’t know how we would afford to buy the food we need. And well, how we would fuel these hungry brains?”


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