July 15, 2020
While we have all seen significant changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, many community organizations have faced substantial challenges and dealt with massive organizational change. Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids went from feeding 5,000 kids a day, to being completely shut down—but they utterly refused to stop their work.
“Everything changed—everything. One day we were feeding kids at their schools and then the next schools were closed. We had to figure out entirely new ways to provide supports for our kids and their families,” recalls Bethany Ross, Director of Operations for Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids.
Before the pandemic, Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids was feeding children each school day with a healthy lunch. About 40% of those lunches are made in the organization’s central Calgary kitchen facility, while the remaining 60% are made out in the community, at places like churches and community centres. All lunches are made by BB4CK’s community of 600+ volunteers every week.
Normally, BB4CK’s lunch brigade makes thousands of sandwiches daily—the core of their lunch kits. Also inside, kids find fruit and vegetables, granola bars and treats like squares so children have a well-balanced and delicious mid-day meal. Once packed, the lunches are delivered directly to schools by more volunteers. Because of pandemic-related food handling concerns and social distancing rules, many volunteers could not get together—and they had no way to reach the kids.
To help meet the new and evolving needs of many community organizations and supports, Calgary Co-op is working with these groups and agencies to get them additional help during this uncertain time through a new charitable initiative called Calgary Co-op Cares. The Calgary Co-op Cares program was launched in April. The initiative sees Co-op matching online customer donations up to $25,000 and the money will go to six local charities: the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter, Calgary Seniors’ Resource Society, Calgary Food Bank, Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids, Meals on Wheels and The Mustard Seed.
“Very quickly we realized that giving out lunches and snacks through schools was no longer going to be an option. So we started working with some of our school partners, and we were able to get the word out to families that we would have some supports available,” Ross shares. “We created a grocery gift card program where we've been purchasing gift cards at Calgary Co-op (Calgary Co-op provides a discount to help with the costs for our charity and others), then inviting families to register and request that help on our website. We mail out gift cards every couple weeks.”
Currently, BB4CK has about forty-five hundred kids registered for the gift card program, which represents just over two thousand families.
“So many organizations in the city have had to make fundamental changes to how they operate, at a time when many are seeing increased demands. We want to do what we can to help so these organizations can focus on meeting the needs of our community,” says Sage Pullen-McIntosh, Communications Director, Member and Public Relations at Calgary Co-op. “We are partnersing with our incedible members to support these organizations during this pandemic and into the future.”
“We’re waiting and seeing what’s going to happen in the fall and into the rest of this year, as far as COVID goes,” says Tanya Koshowski, Executive Director of Brown Bagging for Calgary's Kids. “We know that we are going to have to be flexible in how we operate in the future. Thanks to our community and staff team, we’ve met each of these challenges head-on; we’ve been incredibly fortunate to have partners like Calgary Co-op helping us adapt so we can feed kids throughout our community. We are committed and determined – this community will find ways to feed hungry kids, no matter what comes next.”
While we have all seen significant life changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, many community organizations have faced enormous challenges.
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