A LETTER FROM OUR CO-FOUNDER, JOANNE
Someone asked us recently what Backpack Buddies was all about. Without a moment of hesitation, I said, “Community.”
Whether it’s students packing bags of food for their peers at the next school over, or teachers connecting with us to ensure that their most vulnerable students have a stable supply of food over the weekend, we are all a part of a thriving community that is battling against childhood hunger in Metro Vancouver.
You are an essential part of that community and we have appreciated your support and encouragement this year. As you read through this report, I hope that you will be moved and inspired as you see the life-changing difference you are making in people’s lives through your generosity.
Thank you for being a part of this community – we are grateful.
Co-Founder + Executive Director
The backpacks of food are really valuable to me as a single parent because it’s hard when I can’t provide for the kids. This support takes a bit of pressure off of me and the food from Backpack Buddies gets us through to the next payday.
— Allison, Parent of Backpack Buddy recipients
“The building is falling apart but we have no other option,” she explains. “If we leave here, where else could we go? Where is actually cheaper in Metro Vancouver? This community is our home — this is where our life, our work, and our kids are.”
It’s not an uncommon story to hear around Vancouver these days — families stretched to the maximum trying to make ends meet. And, for many like Kayla and her husband, it’s not for lack of effort.
“I work at SuperValu and my husband builds homes,” she says. “Even with us both working hard, our family is living right on the poverty line — it’s been a difficult time for us.”
When Kayla heard about Backpack Buddies at her daughter’s school, she signed up right away.
“My family needs the extra help,” she says. “Groceries are expensive in the city and we often forgo things like fruit because a bag of apples is too much. But, through Backpack Buddies, my kids get fruit and the snacks we need to make it through each week — it all goes a long way towards helping us get by.”
“My pantry used to be empty all the time and today, if one of my kids is hungry, they can open the door and pick something to eat,” she explains. “Because of Backpack Buddies, we’re more secure — we don’t wonder if we’re going to be able to eat or not.”
Backpack Buddies food is always:
Ready-to-eat because kids may have to prepare this food by themselves.
Non-perishable (except for fruit!) because kids may not have refrigerators or food storage space at home.
Familiar because, like kids everywhere, they like and eat what they know.
At our school in North Vancouver, childhood hunger is a very real, yet very hidden reality.
Our community has changed quickly in the past few years and the discrepancy between the students that have parents, stable homes, and regular meals and the students that do not have these things is growing significantly.
A lot of parents in our community are single-parents and are working double or triple time just to pay rent. They sacrifice so they can live in North Vancouver as it’s safe for their children and because our school promotes a high level of learning. But it comes at a cost for them.
There are many days here at school when I know I’m the only person that will feed some of the children here. If I don’t do it no one else will.
Backpack Buddies is essential for us. I send most of them home with students but I also keep a few here so that I can provide lunch and snacks to students who otherwise wouldn’t eat at all during the school day.
I want to say thank you for your generous support. You’re literally the difference between some children eating and going hungry — it’s that dire for their families.
You’re making a big impact in the lives of the families here. That you’re thinking of them and supporting them means the world and the food you provide makes all the difference.
Tanaya and Naven volunteer to pack Backpack Buddies for their classmates at their school in North Vancouver. And, they take bags of food home for their families as well. Naven wanted us to share a message with you: “Thank you for thinking about the people who don’t have food at home and the people who need help.”
When I moved to Vancouver from Mexico in 2014, I imagined that it would be a utopia. However, when I started to explore this beautiful city, I realized the more I learnt about it the more I realized how little I actually knew about Vancouver.
When I walked through downtown at night and I saw people lying on the streets, begging for help I was disturbed. This did not seem right, and at that instant my stomach turned, my eyes were opened, I was speechless. When, I started to dig deeper into this problem I found that not only were there a lot of adults facing starvation but also YOUTH! When I researched the statistics, I was heartbroken to have found out that this is the fate of 1 in every 5 children in British Columbia who live in food insecure households, where 20% of British Columbia’s children lived below the poverty line and 32% of people who accessed Food Banks in 2015 were children. To me, these statistics were absolutely shocking and unforeseen.
When I started classes at my new school, my motivation to help only increased because I was shocked to realize there was no school initiative to fight the local hunger issues in Vancouver. I was involved in several clubs that dealt with global issues, however, I realized that there were no clubs at my school that were involved in our local community. I had a deep desire to engage in something that had a more lasting impact on my local community; I discovered this amazing program called Backpack Buddies in 2016. When I heard about the youth Backpack Buddies supported and all of the hardships these kids endured, it further moved me to take action.
Subsequently, I received endorsement and support on my initiative from my teachers and principals to propose to adapt this program to our school. After a of couple meetings I was excited to be able to help children facing hunger bi-weekly. I had to determine the logistics of how it was going to work out, with a couple students who joined me and further founded the Backpack Buddies club at my school. I brought in Emily-anne to speak about the initiative to make a whole school movement and make our school commit to this wonderful initiative. We were able to triple the number of students we would be supporting to 30 kids.
At the end of the year, the whole Backpack Buddies club went with Emily-anne and Joanne to go hand out the Backpack Buddies bags at Admiral-Seymour Elementary School. This experience was unforgettable for our whole team. When we heard about the stories of each of the youth at the school and when we handed out the bags in exchange for an unforgettable smile from the kids, it touched our hearts and spurred each of us into greater actions. Therefore the following school year, 2017 to 2018, we decided to support Backpack Buddies weekly instead of bi-weekly.
Despite facing a few challenges with food items, it has been a success so far. In running this initiative, I feel an affinity with helping youth and I hope that my efforts to address this issue will have a lasting impact in their lives. I hope that we can further help our community succeed and build a stronger relationship with the schools in need.
“Philanthropy is not about money. It is about feeling the pain of others and caring enough about their needs to help.”
Ticket Sales: $8,840
Explore our financials from 2017/18 here.
The response from our families to Backpack Buddies has been heartwarming and gratifying. They have expressed how your kind donation has not only helped them feed their families, but it has also helped the family emotionally by taking away some of the relentless anxiety they face every week wondering how they will cope.
— Mala, Teacher at Burnaby South Secondary School