The team at Kids Klub is busy packing food totes for Greater Victoria schools.
“The demand has just increased so much because of COVID and prices and food has gone up so much that they just can’t afford to feed the children anymore and children aren’t going to learn if they don’t have some food in their stomach,” says Kids Klub Brown Bag Lunch coordinator Deb Halliday.
The brown bag lunch program was started in 2000, after Kids Klub noticed kids were coming to their programs without lunches.
“About 500 kids a day go through one of our programs and schools were contacting us identifying kids coming to school without lunch so we want to support families,” explains Vancouver Island Kids Klub executive director Michelle Zielinski. “That’s our organization’s mandate.”
The program, which is run on grants and donations, now serves up around 750 healthy lunches a week.
“Oh it’s an amazing program,” says Royal Oak Middle School principal Karen MacEwan. “There’s always families in our communities that struggle and we feel at school, that this is one way we can help our families come to school and know their kids are getting a healthy lunch.”
Thirteen schools—from Victoria to Sooke—are currently part of the program. But demand is so high, several other schools are on a waitlist for help.
“I wish we could help everybody, it would be nice to have food for everybody, and some schools have a high demand,” says Halliday. “We’ve got schools on the wait list that are 25 children a day and that’s a lot of hungry children.”
All the donations go directly towards buying food so an increase in donations, along with getting volunteers to help pack bins, would be needed to expand to more schools.
“We can’t do any more than we’re doing right now, well,” adds Zielinski. “We’re looking at ways to increase what we can do because we really want to continue to meet the need of the community.”
Zielinski is hopeful that as more people hear about the program, they’ll want to help.
“When people hear there are kids going to school without lunches they’re often really surprised,” Zielinski says. “So hopefully this brings awareness that there are people really struggling in the community.”
For Halliday, who has been a part of the lunch program for the last decade, knowing that they’re making a difference is incredibly rewarding.
“I’m really happy to do that,” Halliday says. “Doing your part to help the community in any way we can.”