When The Salvation Army in Wetaskiwin, Alta.., learned that some elementary school students didn’t have enough food to get through the weekend, they developed a program that not only improves academic performance but gives struggling families one less thing to worry about.
“It surprised me to learn how many kids go to school hungry,” says Lieut. Dae-Gun Kim of The Salvation Army. “Children can’t prepare for their future when they are hungry for food.”
A report by Public Interest Alberta shows that 84,000 children in the province live in poverty, with 29,000 of those children under the age of six.
“It surprised me to learn how many kids go to school hungry”
For over a year, The Salvation Army has worked with the mayor, representatives from the Ministry of Health and eight public schools to develop the weekend meal program, Feed My Lambs.
“There are programs in place to ensure students start their day with breakfast and get healthy snacks,” says Kim. “But what happens after Friday?”
Every Wednesday, Salvation Army volunteers pack 160 bags with six easy-to-prepare, nutritious meals that include cereal, juice, oatmeal, macaroni and cheese, fruit cups, juice boxes and canned pastas. They are distributed to the schools for pick-up by the students on Friday. The program started in early February and will continue for the next 30 weeks, to the end of the school year.
“The bags aren’t branded with Salvation Army logos,” says Kim. “We want the kids to keep their dignity and not be labelled as low-income. They deserve every opportunity to dream about their future and vocation. And they can’t do that when they are hungry.”