One in seven Canadian children go to school hungry. This shouldn’t be the case in one of the world’s wealthiest nations and The Salvation Army in Abbotsford, B.C., is providing a solution.
“The goal of The Salvation Army’s Pantry34 program is to ensure that all youth in Abbotsford have access to healthy, nutritious snacks and beverages at any time of the school day,” says Nate McCready, Community Ministries Director for The Salvation Army. “Staff assemble food and beverages into large re-usable bins and deliver the bins to each school where, at the teacher’s discretion, the items are distributed.”
“Hunger hurts,” says Mark de Bruijn, Food Services Manager and the facilitator of Pantry34. “I experienced it first hand when, as a child, food was scarce because both parents worked for low wages. I cried a lot because I was hungry. And you can’t learn when your stomach hurts.”
Every healthy snack has a positive impact on attendance, behaviour and ability to meet academic challenges. Equipping children with a better diet can lead to improved health, state of mind, education and a greater capacity to earn a living above the poverty line.
“The children really appreciate the program,” says Mark. “We receive many cards, letters and artwork from them expressing thanks. That warms my heart.”
The sad reality is that countless numbers of children across Canada go without nutritious food or regular meals. When The Salvation Army provides the basic essentials of living it not only helps to combat hunger, in many cases it relieves families of the stress and guilt of not being able to provide for their kids.
“Extinguishing hunger is of the utmost importance to ensure our youth and families are thriving and well,” says Nate. “Everyone deserves to be on a path to a better life.”