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Food Banks Canada expands After the Bell program to meet summer child hunger demand

Child hunger in Canada is a serious issue.

Year after year, one of the most alarming findings to emerge from Food Banks Canada’s annual HungerCount report is how disproportionately food insecurity is impacting children — even in a country as wealthy as ours.

According to HungerCount 2021, one third of food bank clients in Canada are children.

Our signature cross-sectional survey of food bank agencies, organizations and programs found that in March of last year, 33 per cent of food bank users were children, even though children only represented 19 per cent of the general population.

This means that children were heavily overrepresented at food banks in Canada, making a total of 434,281 visits to food banks in March 2021 alone.

While Food Banks Canada’s policy and advocacy initiatives have paved the way for income supports, such as the Canada Child Benefit, that have been helpful in buffering some of the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic for families raising children, the rising costs of housing and groceries are outpacing Canada’s outdated social reforms and making households with children even more vulnerable to low incomes, poverty and hunger.

Further, newly released data from Food Banks Canada shows that summer 2022 is expected to be the toughest yet in the 41-year history of food banks in the country.

More than ever, as the number of families experiencing food insecurity is soaring, so is the need for us to work together to increase food accessibility for children who are food-insecure in Canada — especially during the summer months when school-based meal and snack programs are not in session.

AFTER THE BELL

Food Banks Canada is working to fill the summer child hunger gap with our After the Bell program.

Now in its sixth year, After the Bell is expanding its reach to food banks in even more locations. Working with our corporate partners, Food Banks Canada will be delivering 175,000 healthy food packs to over 190 communities in every province and territory from coast to coast to coast.

Hard-to-reach communities from the Bella Coola Valley on B.C.’s Central Coast to remote, fly-in areas like Clyde River, Nunavut will receive eight weeks’ worth of healthy food packs containing a variety of healthy items, such as hummus, crackers, oatmeal and shelf stable milk.

After the Bell food packs include high-quality, nutritious food that is reviewed by a dietician each year. Thanks to our generous Fresh Food Partner, Subway Canada, food banks also receive a grant to add fresh fruits and vegetables to every pack before distribution, ensuring children have all the essentials they need to fuel their bodies and minds.

Food Banks Canada is committed to upholding the values of diversity, equity and inclusion in our work environments and throughout the food bank network. When selecting the new communities supported by After the Bell in summer 2022, Food Banks Canada incorporated these valuable principles to ensure that marginalized and underserved groups were included.

Each community that applied to After the Bell was evaluated against several criteria, including child poverty rate, household food insecurity level and percentage of the population that is Indigenous or racialized. We also considered the Financial Vulnerability Index, which helps to identify neighbourhoods that are more financially vulnerable based on factors such as levels of disposable income after necessities are paid. Through this review, Food Banks Canada was able to prioritize the most vulnerable communities as part of our vision of a Canada where no one goes hungry.

Schools out. Are you in?

Each year, Food Banks Canada receives significantly more applications for the After the Bell packs than we can support. To continue to grow this essential program and keep little tummies full all summer long, we need your help.

DONATE

Consider making a gift to help us reach even more children and communities in 2023.

LEARN

Companies can help raise awareness about After the Bell and its impact on children and families across Canada by sharing information with their staff through educational employee events, such as lunch and learns.

SHARE

Share the After the Bell program with your team and on social.

Thank you to our 2022 After the Bell Program Sponsors!