Raptors star Cory Joseph's new partnership takes on childhood hunger

The Canadian point guard has joined forces with Isthmus, a national charity that provides children from low-income families with food for the weekend.

Canada is the only G8 country without a government subsidized school food program, report says

Raptor Cory Joseph said he has seen the realities of food insecurity up close. (Christopher Langenzarde/CBC)

Toronto Raptor Cory Joseph is lending his famous name and deep pockets to a charity drive to stamp out childhood hunger in Canada.

The Canadian point guard has teamed up with a national organization formerly called Blessings in a Backpack. As part of its effort with Joseph, the charity has re-branded as Isthmus.

It provides a lifeline for kids from low-income families who may otherwise go hungry on weekends by providing them with enough nutritious food to stay healthy between Friday afternoon and Monday morning.

"With the platform that I'm given, that I'm on, you know it's my responsibility," said Joseph. 

Born in Pickering, Joseph's mom worked two jobs to support his basketball obsession. In his years in school and on the court, Joseph saw the realities of what some children endure up close.

"I've definitely seen it, growing up, That's why I hold it close to my heart. That's why I'm here," he told CBC Toronto before meeting students from a local school that works with Isthmus.

"Being hungry and malnourished can affect your life going forward," he said. 

Joseph spent time signing autographs and taking selfies with GTA students at the relaunch of Isthmus. (Christopher Langenzarde/CBC)

The charity says it can feed a student on each weekend of the school year for $120. Donations to Isthmus over the summer will help feed children across the country. 

Founded in the U.S., Blessings in a Backpack came to Canada about 10 years ago. Besides a single staff member, it relies on a network of volunteers to get healthy food to kids who need it.

Bridging the gap

Isthmus board president Adam Markwell said the partnership with Joseph will spotlight an "epidemic."

Approximately 1 in 5 Canadian children go hungry each day and Canada is the only G8 country without a government-funded food program in public schools, according to a 2013 report by the Conference Board of Canada.

"What happens when the bell rings on Friday and we wave goodbye to those kids, knowing they are food insecure?" Markwell said. 

Some students had a chance to take on the Raptor in a bit of one-on-one basketball. (Christopher Langenzarde/CBC)

He added that the charity chose an intentionally obscure name, hoping it would "start a conversation."

In geography, an isthmus refers to a narrow strip of land, with water on both sides, that connects two larger areas of land. 

Markwell said the metaphor is apt. The charity sees its role as "bridging the gap" between the Friday afternoon bell and Monday morning.

As part of its revamp, it will roll out a series of new initiatives and partnerships in coming months.