When you first walk in, cheery faces dressed in red aprons and blue caps greet you. Sounds of happy chatter intermingle with the clinking of metal, swooshing of water and general busyness. Colourful art, hand drawn on brown paper, line one wall. The day’s progress is prominently displayed in chalk.

No, you didn’t just enter Santa’s workshop!

We recently had the opportunity to visit the kitchen of Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids (BB4CK) and meet with Executive Director, Tanya Koshowski, to learn more about their important work.

BB4CK is a Calgary-based organization that partners with 200 schools to make and deliver 3200 free, healthy lunches every day to students who would otherwise go without.

“We’re hearing of kids coming with cake mixes and that’s all they are eating for lunch. Kids that are coming with nothing or the best that parents could do is a taquito from 7-11 or a granola bar,” said Tanya.

“I’ve got a story of a little guy named Josh who was in school looking green and pale and he didn’t have the energy to throw a ball in gym. His teacher looked into what was happening and discovered that Josh hadn’t eaten in a couple of days…We were able to connect the family with a community group… and got feeding them. The teacher now says Josh has energy to throw a ball. He’s sitting up in math class. He feels better. He’s smiling now. It was a senior’s retirement residence that was the community group. They were delivering lunches one day and Josh went running up to them and said thank you so much for my brown bagging lunch because I know my lunch was made with love.”

While providing lunches for kids is the key activity of BB4CK, Tanya says it goes far beyond that simple act.

“It’s about communities making sure all kids get fed. So how do we inspire communities and inspire people to take care of these kids? For us, the act of making a lunch is the platform for inspiring action for social change. It’s not rocket science. Feed kids who are hungry. The impact of that is enormous…”

Over the past six years, BB4CK has shifted from 100% of the lunches being made in their kitchen, to now having 62% of the lunches being made in the community. Businesses, church groups, retirement residences and kids in schools have taken up the act of feeding themselves and their communities.

Much like Santa’s workshop, it is the love of kids and community that is at the center of their work.

“We often will say that lunch is love. Lunch is learning. Lunch is growing. Lunch is belonging. Lunch is caring. It’s all those pieces. It’s the act of a lunch but it is also so much more than that.”

Tanya sees BB4CK as a social change organization that inspires people to do something in their community – to ask question like, what is needed? How can we collaborate together to meet those needs? What can I do to help?

They recently started a hashtag, #YYCActions, to encourage individuals and communities to share their stories of meaningful action in our city, no matter how big or small they may seem.

“If hungry kids pulls at your heart and you have something to give – time, money, resources – then we can connect you. Let’s go do that. But maybe it’s the elderly. Maybe it’s the environment or maybe it’s homelessness; whatever it might be that makes a difference – that pulls at your heartstrings – go do that… They can also be giving a compliment, calling a friend, smiling at somebody, doing something good today. All these actions matter.”

We welcome BB4CK to NewScoop as an organizational member. For more information on their work, visit www.bb4ck.org.

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