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Tag: food insecurity

Raegan and Daina Lazarotto with brown-bag snacks

A small idea leads to food security for LRSD students

Last spring, Raegan Lazzaratto noticed some classmates at Livingstone School bringing lunches that lacked nutritional substance — sometimes only a banana or an orange. Recognizing a problem, the Grade 5 student set out to find a solution with help from her mom, Daina.

What began as a small mission to help other kids at her own school led to a $75,000 donation to the Livingstone Range School Division from Northback Holdings.

Last spring, the mother and daughter’s first plan was to overpack Raegan’s lunch. This provided an opportunity to share extra food with anyone needing it. Despite the best of intentions, Raegan learned that accepting generosity wasn’t always as easy for others as it was for her to offer.

“Then we thought, hey, let’s start this thing so everyone else can have food,” she says, reflecting on the shift from a small gesture of kindness to one with greater impact.

“It’s the first time I’ve actually wanted to do this,” she noted after the program was unveiled Monday. “It feels good that I could do something like that.”

What she did is definitely something Raegan, her family and her community can all appreciate and be proud of.

Her drive to support as many youths as possible led to an amazing outcome after Raegan and her mom put their heads together and came up with a proposal.

“I think I started noticing it [students in need of nutritious meals] around this time of year and we worked on it up until now,” says Raegan, who is now in Grade 6.

 

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They hoped to have assistance in place for September, but there was considerable legwork to do. Daina researched food insecurity in the school division and eventually requested a financial gift from her employer, Northback Holdings Corp.

She proposed a $75,000 donation and says CEO Mike Young got behind the project right away. The hope was that a donation of this size would meet Raegan’s goal of helping many students.

In December, the ask was made to Hancock Prospecting, Northback’s parent company. It was approved immediately and the money was available to Livingstone Range School Division in early January.

“They loved the proposal, in which I shared Raegan’s story, and jumped on it right away, no questions asked,” says Daina.

An announcement was made in early February and officially presented to the Livingstone School community during an assembly on Monday. The Sabres’ gymnasium was filled with teachers, the kindergarten to Grade 12 population and several special guests.

Raegan felt good about herself afterwards. Before the presentation, only a select few knew it was her idea and passion that had put the wheels in motion.

“I think they were a little bit shocked that I had done that but I think that they felt like, ‘Wow, we’re actually going to get some food,’ ” she says.

Northback’s donation will be an annual one for what Daina says is an undetermined amount of time. With the rising cost of groceries and the cost of living in general, knowing schools have nutritional resources could reduce food security stress for many families.

Northback has handed the reins to the school division, believing the administrators know best what resources are needed and where.

“There’s no catch,” Daina says. “The division has the opportunity to use the finances as it sees fit to offer nutrition programs to its schools.”

According to LRSD, the donation will provide food for about 1,000 students. Most schools in the division receive provincial nutrition grants from the Breakfast Club of Canada.

This new funding will support seven schools not receiving Breakfast Club dollars. Along with Livingstone School in Lundbreck, these include Canyon School in Pincher Creek, Horace Allen and Isabelle Sellon schools in Crowsnest Pass, West Meadow Elementary and Will Creek Composite High in Claresholm, and Stavely Elementary.

 

 

While Livingstone School makes food available in the classrooms, it does not have a formal breakfast program.

“In talks with our nutrition co-ordinator, she would like to implement a full breakfast program — that’s the kind of change we’re hoping to see,” says Daina.

Livingstone-Macleod MLA Chelsae Petrovic said Raegan’s story left her speechless and almost in tears. She believes children will have a greater opportunity to thrive and focus on academics and sports.

“I know the importance of what it truly means for the kids,” she said after Monday’s presentation. “I think, too, for parents to know that if they are facing food insecurity, to know that their children are going to be fed at school.”

“When we look at the small wins in life, even if we’re feeding one child or two children, that’s two less hungry children,” she added. “To feed 1,000 is a huge win.”

As evidenced by his expression in the front-page photo, Northback CEO Mike Young is excited about the project.

“We often underestimate the impact of a seemingly simple, yet essential, element — a nutritious breakfast,” he said Monday.

“By supporting the LRSD nutrition program we’re not merely providing a meal, we are investing in the future of our children.”

Twelve-year-old Raegan Lazzarotto has demonstrated that she understands this concept and that she is willing to do the work required to instigate positive change.

“I think she deserves so much credit for caring about her classmates and her school and wanting to make sure everybody is fed,” says her mom.

Raegan’s friends at Livingstone School and all other LRSD schools can be inspired by seeing a peer’s small idea generate a big outcome.

 

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Northback donation to Livingstone Range School Division — Mike Young, Raegan Lazzarotto, Daina Lazzarotto

LRSD receives $75K corporate donation

As many as seven more schools in the Livingstone Range School Division will now be able to provide breakfast and nutritious meals for students, thanks to the generosity of one locally operating business.

Northback Holdings Corp. has announced it’s providing $75,000 each year, over the next several years, to help fuel the bodies and minds of an additional 1,000 students.

”Many of our students face food insecurity at home,” said Richard Feller, LRSD’s associate superintendent of human and learning services, in making the Feb. 5 announcement.

“Our nutrition program helps ensure students don’t have to be hungry and can focus on learning.”

While close to 1,000 students in the division are already being supported by funding from the province and the Breakfast Club of Canada, this contribution will supplement schools that didn’t otherwise receive extra grant dollars.

“The story behind [the donation] is one of our employees, her child had started to notice that some of her classmates weren’t bringing what you’d call a nourishing lunch to the school, and she asked if we could help,” Northback CEO Mike Young told Shootin’ the Breeze.

“I have a sister-in-law in Kingston, Ont., who did a program like this and I remember visiting the school, and it really resonated with me when our employee came to me. I didn’t hesitate.”

In its 2023 annual Raising Canada report, Children First Canada listed poverty as the sixth biggest threat to kids nationwide, stating that nearly 1.8 million children under the age of 18 were affected by food insecurity in 2022.

 

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Front page of March 6, 2024, issue of Shootin' the Breeze. Northback donation to LRSD.

Shootin’ the Breeze Pincher Creek – March 3, 2024

$75,000 Northback donation aims to fight food insecurity

Northback Holdings CEO Mike Young and community relations advisor Daina Lazzarotto give Raegan Lazzarotto a big thumbs up for her role in bringing awareness to food insecurity at Livingstone School. Raegan and Daina came up with a plan that led to an ongoing annual donation of $75,000 to support nutrition programs in the Livingstone Range School Division. A presentation was made Monday at the school and students were offered bagged takeaway snacks and yogurt to celebrate.

Photo by Shannon Peace

Woman with long, reddish-brown hair, places a huge head of cabbage into a refrigerator

Community Food Centre, there to help

Situated in a small part of a building just off Main Street, you’ll find the Pincher Creek and District Community Food Centre.

Although food banks in the community have come in different shapes and sizes in years past, run by a number of organizations including churches, one local group, a non-profit society with a board and a small core of volunteers, has now taken the lead.

“During Covid, the town was in transition,” says chairwoman Anne Gover. “I had some time on my hands and experience running a food bank, so I thought, what if I help set up an independent society/charitable organization? I called a few friends and here we are.”

Even with her experience, it couldn’t have been easy, with gathering restrictions in place, to set up a new society.

“I learned to use Zoom very quickly,” Anne jokes.

She credits the centre’s success, after a two-year process to complete all the necessary paperwork to become a charity, on a great board that’s excited to have a stable facility. 

Like Anne, food centre co-ordinator Kathleen Allen saw the need to have an established food bank program in the community when she joined the team.

“The previous co-ordinator [Theresa] used to come into the restaurant where I worked and she told me what she did,” Kathleen says. “Knowing there was a great need at the time, I wanted to contribute in some way to help others, so I started volunteering.”

 

 

Who uses the food centre?

Since starting, the centre has definitely noticed a rise in post-pandemic needs, from not only families but those considered homeless.

“Certainly in the last six months we’ve seen an increase,” Anne says.

Unlike other agencies, the Pincher Creek centre delivers food hampers twice a week rather than having clients visit the facility. 

Those in need can apply by either phone or email and a physical address is required. 

“That’s been our model since we started during Covid,” adds Anne. “Many of our clients don’t have vehicles so they appreciate the home delivery. It’s a service and it’s anonymous.”

The centre’s mission is to eliminate hunger by ensuring all community members have access to nutritious food, and while some food banks may limit donations to non-perishable products, Kathleen indicates the community food centre has a broader scope.

“We get a wide variety of foods [donated] this time of year from harvest,” she says. “We do receive a lot of fresh vegetables. Oftentimes, I’m trying to increase the fruit, vegetables and protein in a hamper to make it more nutritious, to make it part of a healthy meal.”

The society has even set up its own garden to grow produce. 

One drawback, however, is receiving donated items with past-due dates.

“We have cases where a family member has passed away, and they want to donate the food to us that’s in the cupboard,” Kathleen says.

While the gesture is appreciated, under Health Canada food guidelines, it can’t be placed into a hamper if it’s expired.

 

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Fall food drive

On Saturday., Sept. 23, as it’s done since 2012, the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints undertook the annual tradition of collecting donations for the Pincher Creek and District Community Food Centre.

Well over two dozen members of the church and just about as many food bank volunteers turned out for the event.

The result: 3,200 pounds in product was collected, ranging from pasta and soups to rice, jams and jellies.

Another 1,950 pounds was added to the overall total from a bin set up outside of the Co-op Food Centre in the Ranchland Mall.

“This was absolutely great to see,” says Anne. “And they [the church] provide a list of items so people know what we’re in need of.”

That need, though, is growing.

 

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Homeless in the community

As the society enters its third year of operation, it’s facing a new challenge — how to help serve the homeless population in the community.

“One of the things I think that might be helpful would be anything with a pull top,” Anne says.

“So, that could be something like stews, chili, baked beans … something that’s already fully cooked. Tuna is another example where we could give someone a can of tuna and a loaf of bread or, maybe, crackers.”

The idea is that a person may not necessarily have access to a heat source or even a can opener to cook what’s inside, but by being fully cooked it can be eaten unheated.

Anne and Kathleen say it’s something to consider if you’re looking at donating canned goods.

 

Table setting of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

Other ways to help

“Cash donations are always welcome,” Kathleen says, as an option to help the food bank.

“We will often use the cash to supplement the hampers,” adds Anne. “We won’t always have milk or eggs donated, so we can purchase that ourselves.”

Another suggestion is a grocery gift card.

For those needing help, though, the door is always open and Kathleen emphasizes that no one should ever be ashamed to reach out.

“We’re there to help,” she says.

For details on how to apply for a hamper, make a donation or contribution, or become a volunteer, you can check out the group’s website: pinchercreekcommunityfoodcentre.ca.

 

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Men and women sort groceries donated through the Fall Food Drive.
Bald man with grey moustache and beard lifts a box filled with food bank donations from the trunk of a vehicle.
Woman with short grey hair and dark-rimmed glasses carries two clear plastic bags filled with food bank donations
Young boy with short blond hair carries a clear plastic bag filled with food bank donations
Young boy with short brown hair carries a clear plastic bag filled with food bank donations.
Young boy wearing a ball cap carries a clear bag filled with food bank donations in each hand.

Related article:

New equipment expands capacity for Food Centre

 

Pig roast at wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.