By Samantha Johnson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on August 11, 2022.
The Root Cellar Food and Wellness Hub in Medicine Hat has been running the Brown Bag Lunch Program for nine years, making lunches for children in all three districts.
“We used to gather in Hillcrest Church but over the past two years… we had to shift dependent on the different ways, we did an at-home delivery system of hampers to ensure the kids, while they were learning at home, were able to have nutritious food,” said executive director Melissa Mullis.
After the kids returned to in-school learning, the Root Cellar was providing food directly to the schools and were preparing the lunches. However, now that the Root Cellar is in its new facility, they can go back to making the lunches in the coming fall.
“We provide a nutritious lunch that involves a sandwich with fruit and vegetables and a dairy option as well as a snack. This year we will be adding in some hot meals like soup and chilli,” stated Mullis.
Pre-COVID, the Root Cellar was delivering lunches to around 1,000 children, but they are expecting an increase based on what they are seeing.
“I think many families are finding themselves having to make tough decisions on whether they pay for utilities, groceries, or fuel, or how to manage all that,” said Mullis. “We’ve seen a lot more middle-income families fall under the line.”
The Root Cellar serves all the schools in Medicine Hat and Redcliff. A Family Support Liaison Worker comes to the facility each day to pick up the lunches for schools further afield in the Prairie Rose School Division.
The Root Cellar buys food for the Brown Bag Lunch Program so it is fresh for kids. Cash donations are preferred and can be made directly to the Brown Bag Lunch Program.
It takes about 15 volunteers working two hour shifts each day to put the lunches together. The Root Cellar is currently recruiting volunteers for the program. Contact the volunteer coordinator at 403-528-4313, ext. 3, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.