This year, with both kids there all day, I decided that I could volunteer some of my time at our local school. I got involved in the classroom, in a committee, and one day a week, I participate in the lunch program.
I learned that a small group of our kids were coming to school every day without lunches… sometimes they hadn’t had breakfast either. The program started when a mother learned about a boy in her son’s class who was regularly coming without lunch. She started packing a second into her son’s backpack.
Soon, this second lunch grew into a committee of women who were filling paper bags each morning so that there would be no empty bellies at the school.
It was a need that had always been there. Quietly.
I realized how naive I was to think that every child in the school would have a lunch in his or her backpack. And when I started talking to parents in our school community, I soon learned that I wasn’t alone in my ignorance.
Because we diligently packed our kid’s lunches – even groaned over the task – we didn’t ever think about the children who were coming to school hungry.
A common concern among some parents was that making lunches for students would let their parents “off easy”. Why even try to get a lunch together when you know that there will be one waiting at the school?
Yeah, maybe. But this isn’t about the parents. When a child walks through the doors at school, it should be his or her safe place. Adult responsibilities – and the decisions that come with them – should not be a child’s cross to bear.
We cannot expect children to suffer the consequences of their parents’ actions, especially when it comes to the basic essentials of life. We cannot expect a hungry little boy to focus on his math lesson when his stomach is grumbling and lunch break isn’t going to bring any relief. We cannot expect to “teach a parent a lesson” by turning a blind eye to his child’s hunger.
I was talking to a girlfriend about local community efforts to get lunches into schools and she told me that during her schooling, she learned about some pretty troubling statistics. That one in eight Canadian families has trouble getting enough to eat. The stat gets even tougher for children: one in six children doesn’t have enough food. I’ve learned that in British Columbia, where housing prices are high, it’s more like one in five.
There is a great divide in the affordability of various places in Canada and the incomes that people are able to make. Add in potential factors such as illness, being a single parent, having an unexpected expense, suddenly becoming unemployed, and suddenly… food might not become the top priority on the list.
I look at my own children – one who quite regularly turns her nose up at the dinner I put in front of her – and think, “You have no idea.”
And yet, I am so grateful for that.
They don’t have any idea. And that is how it should be when you are a child.
I am immensely grateful for the people who start small programs – like the one we have in our school – and the large programs, such as The Breakfast Club of Canada – to make sure that children are able to start their day knowing that they won’t be hungry.
Maple Leaf Foods has launched its #FeedItForward campaign – a contest where an individual can be nominated to win $10,000 towards the food-centric charity he or she works with. The nominator and the winner will both win Maple Leaf groceries for a year, as well.
This is a wonderful opportunity to nominate someone who is doing good in your community – whether it is feeding children, or simply doing good work with food as a primary concern – and provide the funding to take it to the next level. I have made a donation to a local elementary school that works with The Breakfast Club of Canada – this school feeds over 100 children a day! – and have nominated their organizer for the #FeedItForward contest.
So many of us take our abundantly-stocked fridges and pantries for granted. We don’t realize the tough times that our community members might be facing. And when it gets down to the nuts and bolts of it, it doesn’t take much to make a difference. Donate to a local organization, ask at your child’s school if there is a program that to donate to or volunteer with, investigate local organizations, and start making a change.
This blog post was sponsored by Maple Leaf Foods but the opinions are completely my own based on my experience.