After the Bell brings smiles and hugs to food banks

According to the latest data release from the Statistics Canada Canadian Income Survey, one in four children in this country live in households that experience food insecurity and do not have sufficient access to food due to financial challenges.

This means almost 1.8 million children under the age of 18 are affected by food insecurity, up from 1.4 million in 2021.

The latest data also confirms the results and key findings from Food Banks Canada’s most recent HungerCount report, which shows children are still greatly over-represented at food banks as they represent 33 per cent of food bank clients but only 20 per cent of the general population.

1 in 3 food bank users are children

Families with children are more likely to face hunger – especially for racialized groups facing systemic barriers – and are struggling with the combination of high housing, food, and fuel costs, in addition to the costs of childcare and other child-specific needs.

The costs are even higher in the summer months when critical school nutrition programs become widely unavailable and many caregivers have additional stresses, like childcare.

Helping to fill the summer child hunger gap

Food Banks Canada’s After the Bell program helps to address the issue of child hunger by delivering healthy food packs to school-aged children from coast to coast to coast, specifically during the summer months when school-centred meal programs are not in session.

With the support of our generous corporate sponsors, including our exclusive Fresh Food Sponsor, Subway Canada, we are incredibly proud to be expanding this program to reach even more families experiencing food insecurity with nutritious, child-friendly food packs throughout the summer.

In 2024, to help address growing food insecurity rates, we are sending 200,000 food packs to children in 215 communities across the country to help meet the increased need, ensuring the most vulnerable communities are prioritized.

At the Jasper Place Child and Family Resource Centre in Alberta, which is an agency partner with Edmonton’s Food Bank and part of the network of over 5,100 food banks and community organizations, Pam Gudmundson said there are many families who depend on the After the Bell program during this time of high need.

“We have quite a few families who really rely on this program and are really thankful, especially with inflation and the cost-of-living increases,” Gudmundson said.

On a food distribution day last year, she remembers watching one of their facilitators pass a healthy, nutritious food pack to a newcomer family with four children. Then, she saw the youngest child whisper in their parent’s ear and run to the facilitator to give them a big hug.  

“The parent looked at me and said, ‘My child said they didn’t have anything to give in return for this wonderful snack kit – she thought a hug might be enough!” Gudmundson said. “‘Awe,’ I said, ‘Yes, yes it is!’ It was a wonderful gift to give back.”

— Pam Gudmundson, Jasper Place Child and Family Resource Centre

Gudmundson said the family heard about the After the Bell program by word of mouth, and it helped them connect with other programs and services to foster their independence.

“It’s actually been pretty magical because it was a beautiful bridge for them to learn more about what we do and some of the resources that we have,” Gudmundson said. “This parent was actually pregnant as well, so she was able to start up with counselling too and get some supplies that way. We also offer free drop-in playgroups to come build community and support their English-learning over the summer.”


Each After the Bell food pack contains child-friendly, nutritious foods. The packs are assembled with shelf-stable items such as crackers, seed butter, oatmeal, granola bars, cheese dippers, fruit bars, milk, cereal, applesauce, and sunflower seeds. The packs are then sent to the local food banks that use After the Bell program grant money generously provided by Subway Canada, our Fresh Food Sponsor, to supplement the food packs with fresh food items such as apples, sugar snap peas, cheese, and yogurt. 


With the support of Subway® Canada, After the Bell’s Fresh Food Sponsor, participating food banks receive a grant to add fresh fruits and vegetables to the packs and provide a well-rounded and balanced nutritious food pack.

Through their Never Miss Lunch™  program, Subway® is proud to provide fresh fruit and vegetables in each food pack and to help support kids in need in communities across Canada.

“We share Food Banks Canada’s vision of creating a Canada where no one goes hungry, especially children. That’s why we’re proud that the Never Miss Lunch program is returning for the sixth consecutive year,” said Courtney Hindorff, Managing Director of Subway® Canada. “At Subway, we’re honoured to be the Fresh Food Sponsor of Food Banks Canada’s After the Bell program, providing children across the country with fresh fruit and vegetables this summer.

“The Never Miss Lunch® program is a testament to the unwavering support of our franchisees and guests in the communities we serve.  We are delighted to extend an invitation to all Canadians to unite with us on our June 20, 2024 and Oct. 16, 2024 donation days as we continue our fight against childhood food insecurity,” expressed Hindorff. “Together, we have left an indelible mark on countless Canadian communities, from coast to coast to coast.”

Now entering its sixth year, Subway Canada’s Never Miss Lunch program will feature everyone’s favourite treat, the Subway cookie. 

From every cookie sold on June 20, 2024 and Oct. 16, 2024, $1 will be donated to Food Banks Canada, to help nourish children when vital school food initiatives pause during summer break.  

Because kids should have kid problems. Not hunger problems.