Brown Bag Lunch Program
Sadly there are a lot of kids who go to school hungry. In fact 21% of Calgarians said they were struggling to buy food and groceries for themselves and their families.
The Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids (BB4CK) program provides nutritious lunches for over 5000 kids in the city every day. Various groups throughout Calgary prepare the meals.
My wonderful client Mindy Selby runs one of the Brown Bagging programs in Calgary. Her group prepares lunches and special hampers. With spring break and Easter coming, the hampers provide food for home while the kids are on break. The Easter hampers will be delivered April 4th.
I sat down with Mindy to find out a bit more about the program and what her team does.
BYC: What is the Brown Bag Lunch program?
MS: The Brown Bag Lunch program evolved from an effort to provide healthy lunches to homeless children in 1990 to a school lunch program servicing 225 schools feeding nearly 5000 children today. It is not affiliated with any religious group although many of the community groups operate out of churches, and in our case a Reform Jewish Temple with an AHS commercial kitchen. We are the Temple B’nai Tikvah Brown Bagging 4 Calgary Kids Community kitchen. About half the lunches provided across Calgary are made in 23 community kitchens throughout the city.
BYC: How many lunches does your group provide on a weekly basis?
MS: Our group provides over 300 lunches on a regular 5 day week. This number has grown from 59 lunches per week pre-Covid.
BYC: You also provide hampers on special occasions. Can you tell us more about that?
MS: Our Community Kitchen provides hampers for Spring Break. We were doing it for the holiday break as well but have been advised that there are many charities that just do Holiday Hampers but no one does Easter/Spring break hampers.
These hampers provide nutritious food that more than equals what a child would receive from BB4CK if they were in school. We vary the size of the hampers depending on the number of children in the household which range from 1 to 6. Each child gets enough bread, protein, snacks and more than one fruit per day that they are on school break. We also add food for the family such as soup, pasta, canned or precooked tuna, turkey or chicken as well as some snacks and treats. Included are at least a couple of pounds of carrots, celery and cucumber or whatever else is fresh and available. We include breakfast food as well including oatmeal, pea butter (no nuts are included), bread, yogurt and cheese.
Here is a photo of last year’s School Break Hamper for a family with 2 children.
BYC: Have you seen the need increase in the past few years?
MS: The need has always been there, but Covid increased the uptake in the program 5 fold for our group. The schools tell us how many kids they feel need food help and we accommodate them.
BYC: Where does your funding come from?
MS: The Brown Bagging organization gets funding from various sources including corporations. Corporate volunteers help make lunches at the down town main kitchen.
Our B’nai Tikvah group is partially funded by the organization but we are largely self funded through donations from the public.
The hamper program is our group initiative and is completely funded through public donations.
BYC: Is this all volunteer run?
MS: Our group is completely volunteer run. 100% of all donations to the Temple B’nai Tikvah community group goes to the purchase of food as there is no administration cost and the kitchen facilities including 3 fridges and two freezers are generously provided by the Temple.
BYC: How can people help?
MS: Donations are very much appreciated and we can always use new volunteers. Lunches are made from 8:30 to 11 am Monday and Wednesday mornings so anyone who would like to volunteer can contact Julia Hall (firstname.lastname@example.org)
To donate to our lunch or hamper program use the link below (or cut and paste).
Under “Visitors” on the right hand side of the screen you will see “Payment Details” and “Type” scroll down to the 4th choice which is “Brown Bag Lunch Program”
$10 buys a Calgary student lunch for a week
$50 buys lunch for a month with fruit to take home for the weekend
$100 buys a school break hamper
You will receive a tax receipt for any donation over $20.
BYC: Where can people find more information?
MS: For any other information please contact Mindy Selby at email@example.com