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Calgary non-profit adapts amid COVID-19 to make sure kids are fed

The closure of junior and senior high schools meant more than just online classes for many students.

Every day, thousands of school-aged children rely on being at school for a lunch meal. This is something that Nancy Martell knows all too well.

“I do come from a household where I had a single mother that was taking care of me,” she said.

“And we weren’t financially that well off.”

While growing up, Martell benefitted from Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids (BB4CK) school lunch program. The importance of making sure kids are fed isn’t something that ever slips her mind.

She is now one of many volunteers who are making sure that kids have a meal to help them get through the school day.

“What actually made me want to volunteer for them was just because I took a part of it (the program),” said Martell.

“And now that I’m able to financially take care of myself and I’m better off, I just wanted to find a way to give back and help someone else.”

Boxes of lunches set to be delivered to schools (OMAR SHERIF / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY)

A changing situation

BB4CK feeds about 4,500 kids every day.

They have had to adapt to different time frames and different forms of learning since the school environment has been changing consistently.

Some kids receive grocery gift cards on a weekly basis, while others receive lunches from BB4CK’s downtown kitchen and community partners, said executive director Tanya Koshowski.

Their priority when schools closed was to make sure that no kid goes hungry even though they aren’t physically present at school.

“We moved back into a grocery gift card program,” said Koshowski.

“So, what that means is about 900 students in grade seven to grade 12 that were receiving lunches at school will be receiving grocery gift cards to help them through this next month until they go back to school in January.”

The grocery gift cards are a $15 value. Families can sign up for them online and receive them weekly to make sure that their kids have a meal during the school day, whether or not they are learning in person.

“They (kids) need to concentrate and focus on their studies,” said Martell.

“Being hungry and actually trying to get work done, it’s distracting and it makes it really hard to focus… it creates a bunch of barriers when it comes to learning.”

Volunteers making sandwiches for kids’ lunches (OMAR SHERIF / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY)

You can visit the Brown Bagging for Calgary Kids website to volunteer or donate.