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When Hunger Is How You Start Your Day
How missing meals affects students and what we are doing to help
Have you ever tried to concentrate when you stomach is rumbling and all you can think about is lunch time? Imagine having to begin each Monday this way. So when hundreds of students in Calgary were identified as chronically hungry, the Calgary Board of Education school-based partnership, Weekends and More, was created ensuring that hungry is not a barrier to learning.
Food insecurity can have lasting and devastating effects, especially on younger populations. Chronic hunger leads to attention problems, poor grades, chronic health conditions, nutrient deficiencies, and even depression. Feeding students has a positive impact on their academics, social interactions, and health.
This program has helped students and their family greatly throughout the year. They know that they have food for the weekend, and this helps to alleviate anxiety, and allows them to stay focused on their learning, and being kids.
– Calgary Board of Education Teacher
This program works to help alleviate hunger and the stigma of food insecurity in our students. By providing Weekends and More hampers to participating schools, staff and teachers can support students who are struggling with access to nutritious food on weekends. These hampers contain easy to prepare meals to meet the needs of students who would otherwise go without food when they are away from school meal programs. Since 2014, students have received nutritious food hampers containing two to three days’ worth of kid-friendly food that discreetly fits into a backpack.
Twelve schools are now participating in the program: 10 elementary and two junior high schools. Weekends and More is not in high schools, since older students are more resilient, accessing food at part-time jobs or friends’ homes to meet their immediate food needs.
student lives affected
WHAT’S IN A WEEKENDS AND MORE HAMPER?
Two to three days’ worth of mostly shelf stable, easy to prepare and ready to eat items. Food items come from an approved list created with the help of Alberta Health Services nutritionists. Included are two of each item: dairy, protein, grain, fruit, and vegetables, and one apple.
Weekends and More provides an opportunity to connect students and families facing food insecurity with resources at the Calgary Food Bank and other agencies to address the root cause and break the cycle. Food is a connector, and Weekends and More lets teachers, students and families start an important conversation.