Helping fill the hunger gap for thousands of Canadian kids this summer
This past year, Canadian food bank usage was a shocking 1.1 million monthly visits. In a country as affluent and as healthy as ours, the number of monthly food bank visits each month can often be larger than the population of some of Canada’s biggest cities. Now let that sink in.
Whether due to economic issues – such as unemployment or the high cost of housing, or due to ineffective social policies, too many Canadians are finding themselves on the opposite end of the food security equation, and it is indeed troubling. However, while the numbers are alarming, maddening even, an even bigger problem is that of all monthly users, more than 1/3 are children.
The percentage of children using food banks across Canada is unacceptable.
“The percentage of children using food banks across Canada is unacceptable,” said Chris Hatch. “Roughly 35 percent food bank users are children under the age of 18, and yet children make up only 20 percent of Canada’s population overall – it’s an issue that our society needs to find better ways of addressing if we are to ensure a more prosperous future for our nation.”
Like adults, children depend on food for survival. However, a lack of nutrition at an early age can have lasting effects that stay with that child forever. In a six-year study conducted by the University of Calgary, researcher Lynn McIntyre and colleagues found that children who experienced hunger had a much higher risk of developing depression. 1 Further, analysis also demonstrated that children who went hungry were similarly at risk of developing some kind of chronic health problem within the next ten years.
In countries across the world, school meal programs were created to ensure children of lower economic means had access to healthy and nutritious meals necessary for their development. In Canada, a growing number of schools today offer meal programs, but where do students turn when schools break for the summer?
“Summer hunger is an upsetting issue,” added Hatch. “There’s no question that kids look forward to their summer vacations – it’s a time for fun and rest, but for those living with food insecurity, it can be a time of worry and anxiety. After the Bell is a program that we established four years ago. Together with our partners and the generosity of community we are working to help fill the gap created over the summer months through the coordination of healthy food packs destined to support children dealing with hunger.”
This year’s After the Bell campaign was Food Banks Canada’s 4th annual effort. It was guided by an ambitious plan to coordinate a mass community volunteer effort in order to prepare upwards of 100,000 healthy summer food packs for kids in need.
Employees at Bayer, a recent corporate partner of Food Banks Canada, were more than pleased to respond to the call for support.
Bayer employees are passionate about supporting their communities and tackling societal issues like food insecurity.
“Bayer employees are passionate about supporting their communities and tackling societal issues like food insecurity,” said Derrick Rozdeba. “It was wonderful to see so many employees step forward to offer their help with the Food Bank’s After the Bell program.”
More than 100 Bayer employees (which represents approximately one out of every six employees from Bayer’s Mississauga head office), signed up to offer their time in support. They joined more than 1,000 volunteers from other organizations and the community that led to 100,000 summer food packs being assembled in support of Canadian kids this year.