Hunger is a harsh reality in our country, an estimated 2.5 million Canadians live without proper access to food, according to Food Secure Canada.
Many who go hungry are children – and Montreal is no exception to this issue.
At Beth Rivkah all-girls Academy in Côte-des-Neiges, one in 10 kids go to school hungry.
“It really breaks my heart,” ten year-old Aliza Gozlin who attends 5th grade said of those kids who don’t have meals.
“Children who do not have a proper meal in the morning, their mind is not there, the mind is thinking about their growling tummy,” said Rabbi Mendy Rosenfeld, Executive Director of the school.
“The teachers tell us they’re thinking about other problems, they may have at home.”
Two women have come together to change that.
Leah Lipkowitz and Julie Gniwisch raised around $100,000 to build two new kitchens where people will prepare meals for the students.
“As a mother, it’s something that I’m very sensitive to. My grandparents were Holocaust survivors, they didn’t have food,” Lipkowitz said.
“I’m very involved in the actual menus and I make sure that there’s always healthy salad, the cakes that we make is all homemade,” Gniwisch said.
“I feel so proud that we were able to do it.”
One kitchen is for meat and the second is for milk to respect kosher dietary rules.
Students can buy a meal card, but anyone who cannot afford it will be given a subsidized card.
All cards look the same.
“Only the administration or the social worker knows whether that child paid for that lunch or not, so they have the dignity,” Rosenfeld said.
Now, Lipkowitz and Gniwisch are looking for donors who can keep the program running by paying for the food and cooks.
The goal is to expand the program to more schools in Montreal.
“I’m hoping this kitchen at Beth Rivkah is an example to all schools across the country,” Lipkowitz said.
“I hope government officials contact us. I hope wealthy donors contact us.”