Adaptation through COVID-19

Debbie Zuback is accustomed to helping coordinate the student nutrition program for upwards of 5,500 hundred children each day across Thunder Bay...
Debbie Zuback is accustomed to helping coordinate the student nutrition program for upwards of 5,500 hundred children each day across Thunder Bay and the surrounding communities. She’s following in her father’s footsteps. He ran the nutrition program at her children’s school for several years until failing health prevented him from continuing on.
She’ll admit COVID-19 has required the team at the Red Cross Thunder Bay office to adapt many aspects of their operations , but none that will prevent her or her colleagues from helping hungry kids in the community.
Alongside community-based organizations including Northwest Community Health Centre, they are helping to feed students from 80 to 90 schools in the region. Prior to COVID-19, students were accessing a nutritious breakfast or morning snack at their local school student nutrition program. The void created by school and program closures is significant, especially for some families that lack transportation or childcare necessary to access a food hamper.
“We have one goal. Help every hungry child in need,” says Zuback who’s quick to mention the work of Roots to Harvest and Norwest Community Partnership. Both organizations are taking lead roles preparing and distributing hampers to students across 7 sites in the city and additional high-risk communities for the past 8 weeks.
This week a record 450 hampers filled with shelf-stable milk, fresh fruits and vegetables, cereals, oatmeal, grains and breads were available. A science kit also made its way into some hampers, offering students an opportunity to keep up with their studies while at home.
“I’m born and raised here. I have close ties to the grocers who help raise funds for school programs years long through the Toonies for Tummies campaign. The Safeway and Metro gift cards provided through the Grocery Foundation will allow us to look after our community when they need it most,” says Zuback. The Grocery Foundation has also provided the Red Cross with vouchers enabling them to include granola bars, fruit and veggies and yogurt in the hampers.
When asked about the future Zuback notes, “We will do what it takes including making sure those who need help know how to access it. We’re thankful to have the food donations, gift cards and volunteers to help keep the kids safe and nourished.”

Help Us Make Breakfast a Reality for a Hungry Child

Chasing dreams should be part of every child’s day. Going without breakfast shouldn’t be.


We are so grateful to Canadians who support Toonies for Tummies during our annual store campaign and, year-round, online.

You may know on April 16th, the Federal Government confirmed plans to support student nutrition programs. Specifically, the budget has announced the creation of a National School Food Program, which will provide $1 billion over five years to Employment and Social Development Canada, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, and Indigenous Services Canada, starting in 2024‑25.

You may wonder what does this government funding mean specific to the need and our efforts to fundraise?

Without a doubt, we continue to need your support. While many student nutrition program leaders are encouraged by the incremental government support, many have taken to the news and social media to confirm even with this support, funding gaps will persist.

The Grocery Foundation's Vision, that no Canadian child goes to school hungry, remains fully intact. Our work continues and remains vital to support hungry children through their school’s student nutrition program. There is no change whatsoever in our focus, our mission, or our reliance on your support.

The programs we help fund are universal in nature. That means all children who require a healthy meal have access. Those on the front lines of these programs affirm their positive impact and positive halo beyond the day’s nutrition, from attendance, behaviours to the school community and mental health. The programs you help fund also support foundational nutrition knowledge and social skill building, as many programs include mechanisms for student involvement in menu planning, food preparation and serving of food to peers.

Thank you for choosing to support hungry children in your community, nourishing their health, well-being, academic success while fostering their school community. With your continued support, we will continue to help dreams take flight and nourish over 3,000 programs and neighbourhoods, yours among them.