What’s a toonie? Like canoeing, Gord Downie and striped blankets, it’s a quintessential symbol Canadian pride. Many of us take such a ‘small’ sum for granted. Individually they may slip under car mats and between sofa cushions, but gather a bunch of them together, and they can completely change lives. 1.1 MILLION lives. As parents, we get thoroughly annoyed when our littlerless lunches return home containing untouched food. Not only have we purchased and prepared these delicacies, but we know that learning is enhanced when tummies are full. Kids are more attentive, astute and relaxed after nutritious snacks and meals. But we also know that across Canada, 1 in 8 households are food insecure, meaning that 1.15 million children are living in homes that struggle to put food on the table. It’s not only kids from these homes who need support with food during the school day, however. My kids are a prime example. Besides getting distracted by recess…..forgetting lunch, growth spurts and not liking the sandwich I slaved over are all typical excuses. For other kids, lengthy commutes, parents who have to get kids to school extra early to get to work can leave children hungry and unable to make the most out of their school day.

Guess how you can help? You can dig that toonie out of your chesterfield and at one of more than 600 grocery stores, hand it over to the checkout clerk feeling oodles of Canadian pride. Since 2000, the Toonies for Tummies program launched by Grocery Foundation has donated approximately 88 million dollars to charities in Eastern and Western Canada and Ontario. You also don’t need to worry that the kids won’t get your FULL donation, because sponsor companies cover the cost of the campaign so that 100% of funds raised go back to children.

If your cupboards are full and you’re not planning on food shopping anytime soon you can also donate online on the Grocery Foundation website.

Many stores are also matching your donation – here are some of the REALLY great days to shop and dig out your toonies to help feed kids.

The food is disseminated by volunteers organized by the Breakfast Club of Canada in Western Canada and Student Nutrition Ontario. I’m a tad addicted to the toonie tracker microsite at www.tooniesfortummies.ca, where you can see the movement across the country and just how many schools stand to benefit!

So…. Not only is today MY BIRTHDAY, but it’s the official launch date for the #TooniesForTummies campaign. (And up until January 18th, Cityline will MATCH the funds of all retails as well!) From Jan. 12 – Feb. 1, please donate your toonie at one of the amazing stores so that more kids can learn, graduate and be successful in life. So get out of your canoe, dig out some polar bear-embossed change, and hand it over for the kids. It’s the Canadian way.

Disclosure: This post was made possible by the Grocery Foundation. All opinions are my own, and the belief that kids need nutrition to learn and succeed have been even more cemented into my soul.