When Atticus McIlraith says no baby should go hungry, he means it.
The 13-year-old from Fort Richmond launches his annual baby formula drive on Nov. 18 with the goal of raising more than $10,000 worth of donations for Winnipeg Harvest. This the teen’s fourth year spearheading the formula drive.
"I’m determined. There’s so many people in need," McIlraith said.
Approximately 1,600 infants and their parents rely on Winnipeg Harvest each month for baby formula. At nearly $30 a tin, baby formula is a necessity that is out of reach for some families.
"The primary reason I keep this drive going is that no baby should have to go hungry," McIlraith said. "There are so many people and so many babies that can’t afford to feed themselves.
"This is something that can’t be ignored. We need to address these issues or else they won’t go away."
What began as an earnest attempt to make a small difference in the lives of infants and families across Winnipeg has grown exponentially, buoyed by support from local schools, non-profits, and individuals.
This year, donations will be collected at six schools and his family and friends will be providing pick-up services to anyone willing to donate. In addition to cash and formula, coupons, rebate cheques and samples are also being accepted, and McIlraith is encouraging young families to check their cupboards for product that they aren’t going to use.
McIlraith is also hoping to educate more people about food insecurity by doing presentations at schools and clubs across Winnipeg, explaining why support for the formula drive is needed.
"That’s always the goal. It’s important to get the monetary and physical things in, but the biggest thing is education," McIlraith said. "If people know exactly why they’re donating that would help."
According to Chris Albi, communications manager with Winnipeg Harvest, baby formula is the one item the food bank must purchase. Approximately $200,000 is spent each year to meet community demand.
"That is a hefty sum every year that we have to pay. That’s why each year the donations make a huge difference in what we do," Albi said.
"(McIlraith’s) work is significant, because an eight-year-old decided that no child should go to bed hungry. It’s a big deal. People heard that message and four years later he’s still going strong."
For more information or to arrange a pick up email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 204-391-3978, or follow McIlraith on Twitter at @atticusmcil. The drive runs until Dec. 22.