Eat Smart – BGCBigs Edmonton

The Cause

Boys & Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters (BGCBigs) provides programs and services to over 5600 children every year. Many of our 19 afterschool Clubs are spread throughout Edmonton communities that face poverty and crime, areas that traditionally see a lack of healthy development in their youth and children. Our goal at BGCBigs is to ensure the healthy development of children, youth and their families by providing safe places, positive relationships, services and opportunities to develop personal strengths and interpersonal skills that enhance their long-term success in life.

A wide range of studies help us affirm that children who consistently participate in after-school programs are more likely to become physically and emotionally healthy adults who are involved in a variety of caring relationships, are self-sufficient and independent, and participate fully in society. After school programs bring out the best in children because they provide safe, caring and healthy environments that inspire, challenge and support children to succeed. Children deserve to discover and nurture their passions and for hundreds of thousands of young people across the country, after-school is when it happens.

At our afterschool Clubs we provide a healthy meal for every child that attends. Generous partnerships provide low (WeCan, Italian Centre Shops) and no cost (Food Bank) food items and we are pleased to be able to extend those relationships to our community’s families, in order that they also may benefit from the cost reduction. With careful meal planning, we are able to feed each child for $1 a day, meaning $5,000 equals 5,000 meals for kids in our community, allowing us to increase our reach.

With this funding from Field Law, we would enhance the quality of our services for our children through our Eat Smart program, as we understand the importance of well-nourished children and youth, as a basis of positive youth development.

When children arrive at their local Club after school they are greeted by friendly staff and volunteers who spend time talking about their day while enjoying a healthy snack. Energized and refreshed, a variety of activities and support are available and may include homework help, playing games or learning a new skill. With a donation of $5000 from the Field Law Community Fund Program, we could feed 5000 kids and provide a nourishing foundation for healthy development. Help us help kids reach their full potential.

Who Will it Benefit?

We have nearly 3000 kids spending time at our nineteen sites annually, and food insecurity is a reality for many families considering so many in Edmonton live below the poverty line. The nourishment provided at their local BGCBigs Club may be the only food a child eats on a given day.

A community sample that classified low-income children ages six to 12 as “hungry,” “at-risk for hunger,” or “not hungry,” found that the “hungry” children were more likely to receive special education services, repeat a grade in school, and receive mental health counselling than “at-risk-for-hunger” or “not-hungry” children.

The same children also exhibited many more symptoms of conduct disorder (i.e. fighting, blaming others for problems, having trouble with a teacher, not listening to rules and stealing) than their peers.

School-age children who experience severe hunger are at increased risk for the following negative outcomes: homelessness, chronic health conditions, stressful life conditions, psychiatric distress, behavioural problems, and internalizing behaviour - including depression, anxiety, withdrawal and poor self-esteem.

Improved nutrition, increased environmental stimulation, emotional support and secure attachment to parents/caregivers can compensate for early under-nutrition.

By attracting children and youth to programming that engages families and communities, children and youth feel more engaged in their communities. Parents and siblings are welcomed into BGCBigs clubs, including invitations to numerous events throughout the year (ex. Family nights, cultural events). Parents build relationships with staff and volunteers, increasing their understanding, comfort with and support for their child’s regular attendance in the program. Parents are also supported in meeting other emerging family needs: parenting advice; advocacy with schools; linkages to other community resources such as the Food Bank. The clubs serve as “a bridge” between the culture of peers, families and communities, as well as with the school environment. This in turn helps parents prevent or mitigate crises to keep their families stable and successful.

Providing meals for low-income children and educating them and their families on the importance of nutrition can decrease the challenges that they may face due to their circumstances – and healthy children lead to healthy communities.