A new summer program is offering children from low-income families free lunches along with a chance to learn how to swim.

Calgary Swims for Lunch was the brainchild of a lifeguard at the Forest Lawn outdoor pool, who teamed up with the Calgary Food Bank and Brown Bagging for Calgary's Kids.

Makena Hind says last summer, many of the kids who came to the pool were so hungry they would ask lifeguards for food.

"They'd show up without breakfast or they didn't have dinner the night before," she said.

kids pool forest lawn

Calgary Swims for Lunch combines sandwiches and snacks with lessons on basic swimming and water safety skills. (CBC)

"I think, probably the first kid that talks to you about it, it's kind of like sad. But by the tenth kid last summer, I was like, this is a real problem, how can I feed these kids?"

It turned out, many of the children had been getting a free brown-bag lunch during the school year, Hind says.

So she came up with an idea of teaming up with the Calgary Food Bank and Brown Bagging for Calgary's Kids to offer sandwiches and snacks at the public pool as they teach the children water safety and basic swimming skills.

Since the program was launched, volunteer Olivia Graham says she has noticed a change.

"They seem happier when they show up, happier when they leave," she said.

Seven-year-old Amy Cornelia, who took her first dip in a pool last week, is among about 30 kids who were referred to the program and can't wait to come back.

"I don't know how to do cannonballs yet and I really want to learn how to, so I'm going to try and try and try to learn how to do cannonballs, and when I do cannonballs I will get water through my nose but I'll try not to," she said.

Hind hopes to expand the program, so kids like Cornelia's little sister can come too.

"The more volunteers we get, the more kids we can take," she said.