Teuny Howarth, Anne Rosgen and Diane Giorgini, residents at St. Marguerite Manor in Calgary, all hope they are making the world a better place for kids in their city.
They are among 10 to 20 residents from three Covenant communities ― Evanston Summit, Holy Cross Manor, and St. Marguerite Manor ― who get together every Monday to prepare bagged lunches in support of more than 100 students in northwest Calgary facing food insecurity through the Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids program.
“We got involved in the Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids program because we saw a need in our community and we were called to help,” says Victoria Slany, activity and volunteer coordinator, Evanston Summit. “It’s really natural to support others, especially others in our own community.”
Teuny, Anne and Diane have participated every Monday morning since late February.
“We gather interested residents to volunteer,” says Alex Lachmuth, general manager, Sodexo Canada, which provides food services at Holy Cross Manor and St. Marguerite Manor. “The lunches we make are served on Mondays and Tuesdays in nine nearby schools.”
Alex has been involved in all aspects of the program since it started at the Covenant sites. He initially organized the bistro space and planned for food and resident safety. Now he makes the grocery list for lunch supplies each week, supervises the residents as they prepare the lunches and delivers the lunches to the schools.
Funding for the sites’ participation is provided by the Covenant Foundation in partnership with generous donors like the Breakfast Club of Canada.
“We’re tremendously grateful for our donors, whose generous gifts help support this meaningful initiative,” says Lisa Munro, president and chief executive officer, Covenant Foundation. "We’re proud to support this program, which creates positive connections between residents and local students, breaks down social isolation and enhances residents’ quality of life and feelings of purpose.”
Residents and staff at Evanston Summit had been involved with the program prior to the pandemic but had to put it on pause. When they were ready to start up again, they invited Holy Cross Manor and St. Marguerite Manor to join the program with them.
Each bagged lunch includes five items: a sandwich (one of seven varieties), a fruit portion, a vegetable portion, a snack and a yogurt or dairy option.
“Our program is barrier-free,” says Chandrie Pera, community and programs co-ordinator with Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids. “This means there is no official sign-up form. When school staff notice a student doesn’t have a lunch, they let us know and then we provide them with support. Everyone is accepted. Not every student needs a full lunch; some need one or two items, which we also provide.”
Chandrie says students benefit from the program in several ways. They get the nutrition they need to learn, they have a lunch like their classmates and they are able to feel comfortable at lunchtime and enjoy the social experience of eating with classmates instead of worrying about not having anything to eat.
Residents also benefit from being involved, says Victoria.
“Our residents benefit by creating friendships within and outside of their buildings, making the lunches and fulfilling a need to give back that is often difficult to do in a continuing care location. I also know some of our residents understand how it is to do without.”
Teuny, Anne and Diane have similar reasons for getting and staying involved in the program.
“I got involved because it’s something I can do to help the kids,” says Diane. “I like the visiting too.”