Qualico Sees Direct Impact of Donations to Food Program for Hungry Students
Edmonton, AB – Each day, many children across the city of Edmonton go to school without having had breakfast and without bringing a lunch. Going to school hungry can impact their ability to learn, socialize, and participate fully in school activities.
So, when Sherwood School approached Qualico in 2012 about the possibility of the company supporting the Food for Thought program at the school, the Qualico Edmonton team immediately got on board to help.
“What really grabbed our attention about the program,” said Shane Erickson, Regional Vice-President, Northern Alberta, “It’s very specific. The teachers and principals at Sherwood School identify children who are in need, so the donation is working directly to help those who need it most. As well, all of the funds donated go towards food for the students.”
Food for Thought, which began in 2002, has grown from serving lunch at one school to providing whole and healthy foods for breakfast, snacks, and lunch daily in 15 Edmonton schools. They recently marked the milestone of serving their one millionth meal.
Qualico’s support for the program at Sherwood School aligns well with the company’s commitment to contributing to healthy lives; nutritious food is vital for children’s health and learning.
With an original donation in 2012 of $2,500.00, Qualico’s support for the program at Sherwood School has grown over the years to reflect rising food costs and increased need at times. The most recent donations have been $5,000.00 per year. Qualico is the sole donor for Sherwood School’s Food for Thought program.
Kristine Kowalchuk, a board member for Food for Thought, said support from donors like Qualico is key to making the program work.
“Sponsorship of a school, which Qualico offers, means a secure safety net, so no child goes hungry,” she said. “A steady supply of groceries is needed to keep the kids fed, which in turn means a steady supply of funds is required.”
Kristine noted that the Food for Thought board hears from principals, teachers, and even students that the program makes a significant difference in the lives of children in need. The program even continued to operate during COVID-19 lockdowns.
“It is not just an issue of learning; it is a human rights issue,” she said. “While Food for Thought is focused on meeting immediate food needs, we also use our voice to advocate for deep change as well, so that our communities achieve greater food security overall.”
Food for Thought is using its million-meal milestone as a catalyst to explore ways of intensifying this work in addressing root causes. Going forward, a portion of donations will go toward a pilot School Garden project, to help increase local food production and teach the students how to grow their own food.
Shane said that beyond the benefit that comes from Qualico being recognized as a company that values and supports healthy lives, the Food for Thought program has allowed Qualico employees to have a direct connection to the children who receive the important service.
Since becoming involved in the program, the company has been invited to attend various functions the school has hosted, so the relationship has been building steadily since the original donation was made.
Qualico employees have had the opportunity to tour the school, and even volunteered to read to students during Reading Week (pre-COVID). Shane said such initiatives are important for Qualico employees, as they provide a hands-on experience beyond the financial support.
“Students get together and write very thoughtful cards,” he said. “When you see that bundle of cards – see the impact it has and the response you get from it – it’s extremely touching. It’s been really rewarding for everyone.”
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