It’s been a year since we’ve been physically out at any fundraising events. We don’t miss the usual roast chicken or short rib entrees. We kinda sorta don’t miss a reason to get dressed up and head straight into the winter slush. The pandemic has changed how we do things and the organizations that depend on massive fundraisers to keep them afloat have had to adapt as well.
The grocery industry’s long standing annual event, Night to Nurture Gala, was impacted but still managed to deliver a fun event in support of Kids Help Phone as well as The Grocery Foundation’s student nutrition programs in Western Canada, Ontario and in Atlantic Canada.
Comedian Gerry Dee and CTV’s Anne-Marie Mediwake hosted the virtual event recently with a “Laugh For Kids” themed night filled will guest comedians. On the roster were Shawn Majumder, Letterkenny, Noor Hadidi, and of course headliner Gerry Dee offering us many, many reasons to laugh. Toronto’s favourite Choir! Choir! Choir! performed a sing-a-long with a little help from a few friends. There were a few Knock Knock decent jokes that were a result from a call out to the public for submissions. And what major Canadian fundraiser doesn’t have a hefty roster of silent auction items. Yes, autographed sports jerseys continue to have a place even during covid times.
The event that raises much needed funds for the youth of Canada isn’t just a one night event. It’s also a winter warm up that leads to the annual Grocery Foundation’s Toonies for Tummies — a collaborative fundraising effort by grocery retailers and their customers to support local student nutrition programs. Through the donation of a toonie at checkout, some self-check counters and online, it’s an easy way to give back in this really tough financial year for many. 100% of the donations remain within the communities of where they were made. At the end of the program, donations are matched to eligible student nutrition programs in the vicinity of the store, and in some cases, especially in Western Canada, programs on funding wait lists may come off. This has been the case with over 100 programs in the last few years alone.
The Toonie Challenge campaign has become more challenging with food insecurity at risk of doubling because of COVID-19, as forecasted by experts in the field and as evidenced by the growing need their partners Breakfast Club of Canada and Student Nutrition Ontario. As many as one in three kids are at risk of heading into their school day hungry. (Source: The Impact of the Coronavirus on Child Food Insecurity in Canada, Breakfast Club of Canada).
The closure of student nutrition programs during the pandemic has not reduced the need, it’s only complicated it. Student Nutrition Programs, school boards, educators, program volunteers and organizations have all been working to reach hungry children, make sure they continue to access healthy meals. Individually portioned meals delivered along with grocery store gift cards are helping, but costs have ballooned. Cash strapped programs, or programs that were on funding waiting lists prior, need the donations more now than ever.
There are 1,350 grocery stores taking part across Canada. Shoppers can track their toonie and see a current student nutrition program via the Foundation website.
If you can make a donation at this time, please do.