The Airdrie Food Bank will begin piloting a new approach to the After the Bell program on Tuesday, July 19. The multi-faceted program which is run by Food Banks Canada in partnership with corporate sponsors as well as local community food banks is aimed to make sure children don't go hungry during the summer months when school food programs aren't available. 

Executive Director for the Food Bank, Lori McRitchie said that two events will be held in Airdrie over the next two weeks to help distribute the lunch and snack packs out to children and families in need. The first event will be held on July 19 in the parking lot of Nose Creek Park from 11:30 A.M. to 1 P.M, while another event will be held at Chinook Winds Park in August.

"Our numbers are increasing every month, [with] more and more families [that] are struggling. We collect data on the number of kids that access our services, and it is higher than the national average. 44 per cent of hamper recipients are children," she said. 'We just want to make sure that families have an option and we're here for them."

According to Food Banks Canada, last year, the program delivered 150,000 healthy food packs to food banks across Canada to distribute to 180 high-need communities. The goal for 2022, is to distribute 175,000 packs. 

McRitchie noted that the Food Bank is painfully aware that families may feel trepidation at approaching a Food Bank at all, she observed that many of those who visit or reach out to the food bank once, they feel much more at ease accessing the programs and assistance in the future.

"They'll come back because they feel welcomed and supported and there is no shame in stopping by. This outreach is a part of our plan is to go out into the community and serve people where they're at," McRitchie said."It's just overcoming that first step. Our staff and volunteers are incredibly welcoming. We offer programs that really support folks and so we are going out to the community trying to do more outreach."

According to Food Banks Canada, there were a total of 1,303,997 visits to food banks across Canada in 2021.

"33.3 per cent of food bank users in Canada are children, while only representing 19.1 per cent of the population. One in eight Canadians accessing food banks is currently employed."

McRitchie added that the  After the Bell program food packs are also available at the Food Bank.

"The only reason we're able to do this is that Airdrie is such a giving place. We're supported by our community and we're supported by Food Banks Canada."

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