The Salvation Army’s Weekend Feeding Program in Red Deer, Alta., provides vital support to youth and families in need.
According to a recent Salvation Army survey, 52 per cent of Canadians faced food insecurity challenges in 2022 (up from 39 per cent during the pandemic) and among those who accessed a food bank in the past year, nearly two thirds were first-time users. With the rising cost of food in Canada — according to Statistics Canada, in late 2022 yearly price increases for food were clocked at 11.4 per cent, the fastest inflation pace since 1981 — along with the overall increase in the cost of living, many Canadians are struggling to provide their families with basic necessities like groceries. The most vulnerable include families with children, employed people whose low wages don’t cover basic living essentials, individuals on social assistance, and Canadians living on a fixed income, which includes seniors and people with disabilities.
Filling the gap
Rikkeen Cardinal of Red Deer, Alta., is one of the millions of people in Canada who are struggling. Since the passing of her partner’s father, who they used to care for, she and her partner were forced to cut down their grocery list and seek support in making ends meet. Fortunately, Cardinal found out about the Weekend Feeding Program from a social worker at her daughter’s school.
The Weekend Feeding Program in Red Deer is provided by The Salvation Army, an international Christian organization that has been active in Canada since 1882 and which has grown to become one of the largest non-governmental direct providers of social services in the country. Last year, 3.9 million meals were served at Salvation Army shelters and feeding programs.
“Our focus is on helping those who are low-income or no-income, or who are experiencing homelessness,” says Taylor Poor, Community Ministries Coordinator at The Salvation Army. “Our Weekend Feeding Program supports children struggling with food insecurity.”
While children often have access to school breakfast and lunch programs during the week, nothing was available for them when they went home from Friday afternoon until Monday morning. “There was a gap that needed to be filled,” says Poor.
Combating hunger head on
Through the Weekend Feeding Program, bags filled with child-friendly, easily preparable meals and snacks are delivered weekly to participating schools and distributed to children enrolled in the program. This effectively combats hunger, improves youths’ energy and focus at school, and takes some stress and guilt off families’ shoulders. The program currently serves over 230 students weekly at 25 public and Catholic schools, and the numbers are increasing.
A lot of families can’t afford what they used to buy, so this is truly a blessing for those parents that need a little extra help.
“We’re very grateful for this Salvation Army program,” says Cardinal. “A lot of families can’t afford what they used to buy, so this is truly a blessing for those parents that need a little extra help.” In addition to the Weekend Feeding Program, the Red Deer Salvation Army offers a variety of other supports to counter the rising costs of living, including a daily bread distribution program, a food bank, a utility assistance program, and more.
Visit SalvationArmy.ca/FamilyFood2023 to be part of our Family Food Drive.