It’s hard to imagine children going hungry in your own neighourhood, but nearly ten years into this, we know child hunger exists all over our province. Slowly but surely, we’re committed to reaching every kid who is hungry in B.C. For now though, it’s one step (or ferry ride) at a time.
Over the past year, every time we talked to people or thought about expanding to feed more children, Vancouver Island kept popping up. As it turns out, there are pockets of significant poverty on the Island – in these spots, the poverty rate for children is over 44%. (The B.C. average is 20%.)
It seemed that all signs were pointing west when we also learned that there aren’t many programs on the Island that specifically support hungry kids.
Our team was determined to make our way there, but we needed a plan first. So we reached out to our friends at Soap for Hope, a non-profit located in Victoria that provides hygiene kits to those in need. Through them, our team identified a group of children with very high needs in the Victoria area.
Within minutes (well, a week) we got on the phone and started calling school administrators to explain our program and ask if they were interested in being part of it. Every school we called joined up.
This September, thanks to the support of our community of donors and volunteers, we packed a van full of food and made our first ever delivery in Victoria. But we knew it would be important to have someone local to coordinate with schools and meet with staff, teachers and parents – enter Kara, our first employee on Vancouver Island.
Kara shared with us that there’s a mom who regularly sends emails to thank Backpack Buddies for all the support they’re giving her kids. She is stretched pretty thin, so the backpacks of food give her a little bit of peace on the weekend, knowing her kids are fed and well cared for.
In Gold River, where the local lumber mill is on strike, we learned that many families are struggling because their parents are out of work. A teacher shared with us that one of our kids – a 7 years old boy – actually handed back his bag of food a couple weeks ago. He explained that because his dad is working, the teacher should give his bag of food to his friend, who has nothing at home.
Here at Backpack Buddies, we’re so grateful for our community of caring and dedicated donors and volunteers (old and young) who come together to reach out to hungry kids. It’s because of you that over 280 kids in Victoria, Gold River and Campbell River are receiving bags of food for the weekend. We know this number will climb in the months to come – thank you for being part of this important and much needed growth!