Community Impact Report 2019/20

An agile, compassionate response to an unprecedented year.

Hi There!

What a year this has been for us all – especially for hungry children across the province. 

The start of the 2019/2020 school year saw a nearly 50% increase in our weekly deliveries to children throughout Metro Vancouver. At the same time, we also expanded to Victoria and later, to other cities on Vancouver Island, reaching many more children than any prior year.

Then in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and schools were closed indefinitely. Our kids immediately lost access to the school meal programs they rely on for daily nutrition. The weekend hunger gap became the 7 day hunger gap. There was no way we were going to abandon our kids.

So we turned our program on its head – packing enhanced bags of food that would help our kids and their families get by, handing bags out the back of our delivery truck and delivering to schools and non-profits for distribution, where possible.  Our generous food partners gave us more meals and snacks, our donors opened their hearts and pocketbooks wide, equipping us to deliver more than 49,000 bags of food to hungry kids this year. 

It was an incredible time of community and togetherness, even though we were more physically separated than ever before. 

Thank you for standing with us and our kids.  

Joanne Griffiths

Co-Founder + Executive Director

Geoff Pedlow, Chair
Samantha Tennant
Sylvie Singer
Alison Wilson
Ryan Yada

Joanne Griffiths, President + Co-founder
Emily-anne King, Vice-President + Co-founder
Lorraine Winchester, Operations + Logistics Manager
Michelle Vanderzon, Community Engagement Specialist 
Vishad Deeplaul, Marketing + Communications Coordinator
Kara Udell, Coordinator for Greater Victoria
Pat Jenkins, Warehouse & Transportation Manager 

The School Year – By the Numbers


Number of Kids Reached


Bags of food delivered




Kilometers Driven


Kilos of Food Delivered

COVID-19 Response – By the Numbers

As the days and weeks of the pandemic closures stretched into months, we heard of more and more kids who needed help. 

As the needs of struggling families increased and our grocery bills have sky-rocketed, you’ve been there every step of the way. 

Our New Home

One of our goals for the 2019/20 school year was to locate a warehouse that would store all of the food we send on weekly deliveries. An added bonus if there could be enough space for our offices as well.  We’re thrilled to have found the perfect spot!

In September 2019, we moved to a warehouse located on East Esplanade in North Vancouver, in a small industrial pocket. With 1,150 square feet of space, we were able to increase our Backpacks deliveries from 3,500 to 5,000 a month that very month.

Our new home is in close proximity to our food partner, Park and Tilford Save On Foods and is sponsored by  Quiet Cove Foundation, for which we are extremely grateful.

Child Hunger on Vancouver Island  

What we have learned over the years is that while vulnerable students across B.C. may take advantage of school-based meal programs during the week, few supports exist on weekends, when many kids suffer in secret. 

Weekend child hunger is not unique to Metro Vancouver and this year, it was important that we expand our program so that we could reach children in more isolated communities. When we learned that the poverty rate for children on Vancouver Island is twice as high as the rest of the province, we started there.

In some pockets of Vancouver Island, the poverty rate for children is over 44%.  In comparison, the B.C. average is 20%. 

When it comes to the weekend, vulnerable families on the Island face challenges like choosing between paying rent and having food in the fridge. That’s why extra food for the weekend can make all the difference – when a hungry kid has a full belly, they are less anxious through the weekend and return to class Monday morning ready to learn.

In September 2019, we started packing a van full of food and making deliveries in Victoria. Our goal was to be in 5 schools on the Island by December. Within 6 weeks we were in 15 schools in Victoria, Gold River and Campbell River. And in the early spring of 2020, we started delivering to Port Hardy and Alert Bay.

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 across BC. Thank you for being part of this important and much needed growth!

COVID-19 Pandemic: The Seven Day Hunger Gap

When B.C. schools were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of hungry kids lost access to the school breakfast and lunch programs they relied on for daily nutrition. Their parents, now facing new childcare demands, a reduction in income and a loss of community resources, scrambled to make ends meet. 

Here at Backpack Buddies, we were determined to help these vulnerable families through this critical time. From April 3 onwards, we delivered emergency food to hungry kids in neighbourhoods all over Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island, even sending food to Port Hardy for the first time.

These “enhanced” bags of food included the 6 meals and snacks our kids would normally receive over the weekend, plus extra snacks, meals and whole foods including pasta, rice, bread, soups, canned proteins and other pantry staples. As always, everything we packed was kid-friendly, accessible and easy to prepare.

With many more parents experiencing a loss of income and community supports during this health crisis, the number of hungry kids grew exponentially. 

Thankfully, because of donors like you, we were able to grow to meet the demand, reaching 2,500 kids every week – an increase of over 50% since the start of the pandemic.  

Your Impact

I just wanted to reach out and say thank you so much. Thank you for continuing to support our families. They are loving the extra “perks” in the bags of food, including the bread because it’s white and sliced!

— Outreach Worker at Grandview Elementary School

Thank you for all the supplies you have given to the Grandview Elementary community. We wouldn’t be able to survive if it wasn’t for you. A big hearted️ thanks. We love and appreciate you so very much.

— Outreach Worker at Sir Admiral Seymour Elementary School

Feeding Hungry Kids Since Day One

As one of Backpack Buddies’ most loyal supporters, Brian Paes-Braga has been with us from the very beginning. His childhood friendship with Emily-anne, co-Founder of Backpack Buddies, connected him to the cause of child hunger.

“A child going home on a weekend without food is a huge problem,” he says. “Emily-anne showed me how we can fill that gap and I’ve been a proud supporter ever since.” 

Soon after that first conversation, Brian became a founding board member of Backpack Buddies. Over the years he has dedicated his time, leant his business expertise and championed us in the community.

Giving to Backpack Buddies for more than 8 years, Brian has learned a thing or two about what it means to give as a young and successful entrepreneur. In his mid-20s Brian founded a financial services company that he sold less than two years later for a significant gain. While he is now in a position to make transformative gifts, his journey in philanthropy started small.

“When you support hungry kids, however that may look for you, it can have a long lasting effect on them,” says Brian. “They will remember what someone else did for them, and it gives them hope.”

Brian also believes the coronavirus pandemic is changing how we think about giving. 

“What COVID has created for people who were really ‘busy’ before, is time,” he explains. “People are stopping and thinking, and they’re looking around to see how they can help others. I believe that Backpack Buddies is helping all of us discover – or rediscover – our empathy at this critical time.”

Brian is the founder of Quiet Cove Foundation, a funding partner and significant contributor to everything we do here at Backpack Buddies.

Rick’s Big Heart

When the COVID-19 pandemic turned our program upside down, friends new and old stepped up to help us reach hungry kids who had suddenly lost access to their school’s hot meal program. With schools closed, our kids needed more meals at home to sustain them through the pandemic.

Rick’s Heart Foundation joined the Backpack Buddies family in the fall of 2019, helping us make some of our first deliveries to Vancouver Island. Rick Diamond, the founder of Rick’s Heart Foundation, also owns Diamond Delivery, and very generously lent his team and a truck to get us into Gold River for the first time.

“Not many companies go up to Gold River because it’s not an easy community to get to,” explains Rick. “If I couldn’t find someone who could get it done, then I was going to hop on the ferry myself.”

Rick established his foundation to tackle homelessness, hunger, wellness and addiction in B.C. A self-described ‘child at heart’ Rick is passionate about having fun while making the world a better place. That’s why when we reached out to him for help with making deliveries to hungry kids at home, Rick stepped up without hesitation.

“It’s about doing the right thing,” he says. “Poverty is going to get worse with COVID-19. I really truly live in my heart and have a lot of compassion. There are parents who are not working and might not get back to work any time soon. It’s really tough what’s going on for them and their families.”

Through the pandemic, Rick and his team have been picking up food and delivering to our warehouse, as well as transporting food to Victoria and Nanaimo for distribution on Vancouver Island. Rick even sponsored a school in Surrey so that we could provide bags of food to the kids there.

Rick’s big heart is truly remarkable. We couldn’t have made it without him. 

And we couldn’t have made it without YOU!

We’re so grateful to everyone who stepped up to partner with us this year. From donors to COVID-19 emergency food partners, school districts to outreach workers, principals to parents, volunteers to staff: thank you for bringing food into the homes of some of the most vulnerable families in B.C.

Financial Report


Government: $526,026
Ticket Sales:


Program: $528,781
Fundraising: $165,450
Total: $774,645

Explore our financials from 2019/20 here.

Leon Judah Blackmore Foundation
CKNW Kids’ Fund
G&F Financial Group Foundation
The Tamara Foundation
Chris Spencer Foundation
Seedlings Foundation
Quiet Cove Foundation
Wheaton Precious Metals
The Morris and Helen Belkin Foundation
The Amir and Yasmin Virani Family Foundation
Province of British Columbia
Port of Vancouver
Walsh Foundation
SVP Vancouver

Thank you for all your support in 2019/20!