With the numbers of hungry Canadian children on the rise during the COVID crisis, the Grocery Foundation is expanding its Toonies for Tummies fundraising program and found a willing partner in Empire.
The program will be rolled out in Atlantic Canada in 2021 with Sobeys Inc. stores in the region taking part to raise money to feed Canadian students. The Foundation hopes to raise $2.75 million in 2021, up from $2.5 million raised this year which, was up from $1.5 million in 2019.
Empire joined the Toonies for Tummies program last year in Ontario and Western Canada, nearly doubling the number of participating stores to 1,100 from 550 in 2019. Other retailers already committed for 2021 include Save-On-Foods, Thrifty Foods, Safeway, IGA, Metro and Longo’s, with independents to be named in the weeks ahead. The Foundation is calling for consumer products, food, and beverage manufactures to join the campaign as the effects of COVID-19 hit school children across the country.
The need is undeniable. Before COVID, about one in five children faced food insecurity in Canada. Experts now expect food insecurity to double by the end of the year, meaning one in three school children may experience hunger before the year is out.
Launched in 2000, the Toonies for Tummies program asks grocery shoppers to donate $2 at checkout with 100% of the proceeds going to local programming to provide food for needy school kids.
While in the past the emphasis has been providing meals through school nutrition programs, the Grocery Foundation is adapting to include food hampers, gift certificates and curbside pickups to ensure students get healthy meals safely despite the challenges of the pandemic.
“Sobeys Inc. has such an incredibly rich history of giving back to the communities we proudly serve,” said Michael Medline, president and CEO, Empire, in a press release. “That culture of giving back started with our founders, the Sobey family, more than 113 years ago. Our frontline teammates continue to bring this culture to life in our stores every day. Our teammates in Atlantic Canada are thrilled to join in the 2021 Toonies for Tummies campaign. We are proud to stand side-by-side with The Grocery Foundation as we continue to nurture students in our communities from coast-to-coast.”