Calgary youth centre pivots during pandemic to provide lunches to communities in need
'A lot of kids were saying, without that lunch, they weren't going to be eating'
A Calgary organization that helps youth in the community of Ogden has switched gears during the COVID-19 emergency.
Youth Centres of Calgary has had to close its doors to kids during the pandemic, but it's now operating a curbside packed lunch program for anyone who needs a meal.
Jane Wachowich, executive director of Youth Centres of Calgary, says that when the pandemic hit, she had to rethink her operating model.
With after school gatherings no longer permitted at her Ogden centre, Wachowich pivoted to giving out daily meals from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the facility, located at 7400 23rd Street S.E.
"A lot of kids were saying, without that lunch, they weren't going to be eating, and we decided we would move the service to other communities," she said.
"And then we soon realized that it was the whole community that might need the lunches, and now, here we are in, in another community."
Wachowich is now working with school principals in other communities as she expands to more districts, including Dover and Forest Lawn, where she and her volunteers operated a pop-up location on the weekend.
Terry Baustad, principal of Ian Bazalgette School in Dover, says he's already seen some of his students come and get a lunch.
"When we think about kids learning through this time — learning is super important — but we want to make sure we are taking care of those essential needs as well," he said.
Wachowich says she is getting lots of calls from people wanting to help out or donate food or money.
"There are a lot of incredibly generous, compassionate people in this city. And I'm so lucky to be right in the centre of it," she said.
The lunches are prepared in a commercial kitchen with only one chef handling the food.
Wachowich says she hopes to be able to expand the lunch program to more communities as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
With files from Helen Pike