Since launching in the spring of 2021, an initiative that provides healthy snacks for local students has expanded to nearly every school in Delta to meet the seemingly ever-growing need.
Each month, Delta firefighters provide schools with food to feed kids in need during the day so they have the nutrition needed to learn, grow and be healthy. The snacks are available to students in a no-barrier setting, allowing them to grab something whenever they feel hungry.
The Delta Firefighters’ Charitable Society launched the Healthy Snack Program in March of 2021 at six North Delta schools to address food security issues made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then the initiative has grown to support students at 35 elementary and secondary schools and programs.
“We’re probably supporting over 1,000 kids a day with the food we provide here,” program co-ordinator Warren Balzer told the Reporter on Tuesday (Feb. 7), as he and about a dozen other off-duty Delta firefighters at Fire Hall No. 3 in North Delta sorted and packed food to distribute to schools across the city.
“COVID was an issue that obviously made things grow quite a bit and the demand was big, and obviously now with inflation and food prices going up the need has just ballooned,” he said. “So it’s a program that was needed before (…) and now that we’ve got it going, it’s one of those things that we know we can’t take it away or we can’t stop doing it because people rely on this program.”
Funding for the program comes directly from Delta firefighters via a payroll deduction program where the department’s members donate money every paycheque to support charitable initiatives.
On Tuesday, the firefighters presented a cheque for $30,000 to support the Healthy Snack Program, for a total of $90,000 donated since the program began.
Still, it’s an expensive program to run, especially as it continues to grow.
“Money, unfortunately, is the one thing that everyone needs, especially to keep this program running,” Balzer said.
“We have the manpower to do it, but it’s the funding where it becomes an issue. This is probably about a $50,000- to $60,000-a-year program, and knowing that it can’t really go anywhere, we have to raise that money every year.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to reach out to some people in the community — some businesses, some personal donations — and we’ve been able to collect a bunch of that, but moving forward it’s one of the things where we need to continue to get funding.”
One-time and monthly donations to the Healthy Snack Program can be made via credit card or PayPal through the Delta Firefighters’ Charitable Society’s website (deltafirefighters.com/delta-firefighters-healthy-snack-program).