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Report on Business A Vancouver non-profit fighting poverty through weekend nutrition

The donors: Emily-anne King and Joanne Griffiths

The gift: Creating Backpack Buddies

The cause: To provide weekend food for inner-city school children in Vancouver

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When Emily-anne King and her mother, Joanne Griffiths, tried to launch a charitable project in Vancouver a few years ago they didn’t have much success, but the failure led to a much better idea.

The duo had planned to start a garden project among inner-city schools, hoping to get children interested in growing plants and learning about nutrition. The venture never got off the ground but they’d made valuable contacts with school officials in at-risk neighbourhoods. “We decided to call a meeting with some of them and we said we can’t build you these gardens we wanted to build, what else to you need?” Ms. King recalled from her home in Vancouver. “The overwhelming answer from them was food for weekends. That was something neither my mom nor I had ever thought about.”

That led to the creation of Backpack Buddies in 2012, a non-profit program that provides healthy food for children on weekends. The group works with schools across the city to organize fundraising events and food drives, and also pack the bags. The bags are distributed to inner-city elementary schools where officials identify children most in need. The group is now providing 2,000 bags a month and Ms. King said the goal is to reach 5,000.

“It’s pretty hard to believe how far we’ve come,” she added. “The more we’ve done the more need that we’re seeing. The issue of poverty and how widespread it is is becoming more and more apparent to us as we grow.”

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