School days, school days, dear old Golden Rule days! For many, that song brings memories of sleeping late, then jumping into our clothes, gobbling a piece of fruit, grabbing a brown bag lunch and chasing the bus to get to school on time.
For many local children, however, the fruit and lunch bag are just not on the counter because the fridge is empty. The reality is that countless children right here in this community go without nutritious food or regular meals.
In partnership with the Kiwanis Club of Clearbrook and Sid and Daphne Johnson, owners of McDonalds – Bourquin, the Salvation Army’s Pantry34 program currently serves 2,100 students in 25 Abbotsford schools between September and June!
Pantry34 aims to ensure Abbotsford students have access to healthy, nutritious snacks and beverages during the school day, distributed at the teacher’s discretion.
Access to proper, nutritious food can mean the difference between poor grades and good grades, ineffective learning and effective learning, poor health and good health.
“Many of our school teachers and counsellors tell us there’s a vital need in our community,” says Reg Burks, Food Services Manager, The Salvation Army – Meal Centre. “I get several emails each week requesting snacks and beverages. In addition to the regular program, we also get requests from within the schools from workers in various specialty programs.”
Often, students come forward twice a day every day for the snacks that help them through the day.
The Pantry34 Program has an annual operating cost of approximately $25,000 to $30,000. “Sometimes we’re fortunate enough to receive donations that we can allocate to the program, but, for the most part, the program is funded by The Abbotsford Salvation Army,” says Kim Hissink, Fundraising Coordinator. “Our hope going forward is to secure partial or full funding as the need is increasing annually.”
To learn how you can support The Salvation Army’s Pantry34 Program, contact Hissink at the Centre of Hope at 604-852-9305, ext. 138.
Sharing the impact of a warm meal
On any given day at The Salvation Army – Centre of Hope – Meal Centre staff and volunteers serve breakfast and lunch to more than 150 people, plus another 35 residing in the shelter.
People attend the Meal Centre for a variety of reasons – perhaps they’re homeless and hungry, they may be lonely and isolated, or simply families or singles who can’t afford food.
The impact can be significant: One man recently shared that before coming to the Centre of Hope, hunger had left him sickly and thin; after just a few months he gained weight, felt healthier and will be returning to work.
The Meal Centre program is strongly supported by local businesses that donate much of the food, and the volunteers who sacrifice their time. It also runs a cart program Monday to Saturday allowing people to take home a few staples.
In addition, the Centre of Hope supports the outreach in Mission by providing 195 meals per week, distributed by volunteers at Hope Central Church.