If one healthy meal can power a kid though the school day, imagine what can be accomplished when that same student is being fed every single day.
The people at the Chilliwack Bowls of Hope Society don’t have to imagine. They see it at school lunch hours, Monday to Friday, as bowls in lunchrooms come back scraped clean and kids head out to the playground, to classes, and to their lives.
Bowls of Hope feeds 600 kids a day in Chilliwack, across 19 partnering schools. While some kids come and go, popping in and out when they’ve forgotten their lunch (again) or when mom and dad just can’t put together a healthy bagged lunch, others use the program as a lifeline.
One boy began dropping in for soup when he was elementary school, at the beginning of the program. He graduated last year, and when he did so, he knew he didn’t do it alone.
“He sent us a note, thanking us for being there,” said Mike Csoka, president of the Chilliwack Bowls of Hope Society.
Knowing someone will be there with a hot meal every day, and getting that needed nourishment in a welcoming environment, can mean the difference between success and slipping through the cracks, Csoka said. Studies show that grades go up when kids are well fed, and their personal relationships with friends improve, too.
But there are sad stories as well. Csoka recalls one young child referred to the program who was sent to school with a box of croutons as his lunch — for the entire week.
But the Bowls of Hope Society doesn’t pry. They don’t care where the kids come from, or why. Their only goal is to send them away with a full stomach, and the knowledge that someone cares about their success.
“They get the message that ‘somebody cared about me, somebody did something for me, and it was consistent,'” he said.
The Bowls of Hope don’t just bring soup, though. Twice a month, one of the society’s partners, the Chilliwack Fire Department, steps in to help. They serve the kids, talk with them and share stories. For all ages of students, it’s an exciting event, said Lisa Axelson, public educator with the Chilliwack Fire Department. The kids are pulled into the firefighters’ stories, look up to them, and enjoy their company. While small kids are happy to climb all over the fire engines that visit, older kids sit and listen as the firefighters chat about their work.
At CHANCE school recently, the kids invited the firefighters to pick up some sticks and join them for some street hockey.
Axelson relayed the story a recent meeting between the fire department’s Charitable Society and the Bowls of Hope directors. There, Axelson also helped pass over a donation of $2,000.
At a cost of 12 cents a bowl, Csoka said, the firefighters’ donation covers an entire month of soups for 600 kids. The Bowls of Hope Society is gearing up to host their 10th Annual Feed the Children Annual Dinner Auction, on Friday, May 1. Tickets, $40, are going fast, Csoka said. The dinner is their largest fundraising event and could bring in enough to create 120,000 hot, nutritious meals for students in the 19 schools the Bowls of Hope serves.
For more information about the Chilliwack Bowls of Hope, visit chilliwackbowlsofhope.com or visit them on Facebook.