Many kids are heading for school on empty stomachs. This isn’t something you would expect in one of the best places in the world to live. But, it’s reality. Canada’s financial crisis and recession has left families torn apart by increasing financial demands.
Food is an important basic need that countless Canadian’s struggle with. In many cities Salvation Army programs are seeing large numbers of people visit their food banks on a monthly basis who would otherwise only seek assistance at Christmas. And its programs that feed breakfast to elementary and high-school students are serving longer line-ups and twice the number of kids. And, it’s not just an increase in numbers—the children seem to be hungrier.
In Thunder Bay, Ontario, the work of The Salvation Army began in 1893. In the early years, social efforts became part of the church ministry. Food and clothing were distributed to the poor. This vital family services work continues today.
A breakfast program operated by The Salvation Army at St. James Elementary School provides nutritious hot or cold breakfasts to hungry children three mornings a week. Studies have shown that students who are fed are more alert, develop greater self-esteem, have better attendance and academic achievement, and fewer discipline problems.
“The program not only has a powerful influence on a child’s physical health, but also their social and emotional health,” says Gail Kromm of The Salvation Army. “They have better relationships with their peers. We notice that bullying and name calling stops and the children enjoy each others company. Often the children just want to chat with staff about their weekend or what is going on in their lives.
“Milk is real hit with the children,” continues Kromm. “Many of them don’t get any at home. Another part of the program the children love is when it is their birthday. They pick the breakfast menu for that day and get a candle in their meal. This simple gesture means so much to a child whose parents can’t afford a home party.”
The Salvation Army is not only a church. It is Canada’s largest non-governmental direct provider of social services, delivering assistance to people in need. Last year The Salvation Army served 2.6 million meals to the hungry.
Hunger is an everyday reality for thousands of Canadians. Food needs are immediate and real. Food security is getting worse and it isn’t just a problem for the homeless.