A major theme in Hansel & Gretel is hunger and the extent to which it can affect family relationships. Throughout the opera, starvation is an imminent reality for the children, and we see the amount of stress it causes the parents. The Mother’s shame and anger at being unable to provide for her children causes her to lash out and tell them to forage for food in the forest. The Father, on the other hand, often comes home drunk.
Though Hansel & Gretel is a fairy tale, their family’s story is a reality for many people in our own community. After changes were announced to the Canada Food Guide just a few weeks ago, it has become increasingly evident that many Canadians cannot afford to meet our national nutrition requirements. A recent CBC piece cites studies asserting around 1 in 6 Canadian children is affected by household food insecurity and over 90% of students grade 6 to 12 are not eating their daily recommended servings. Poor childhood nutrition takes a huge toll on physical development, mental health, and can cause a number of chronic illnesses as kids get older.
Local food banks across the country work tirelessly to provide wholesome meals to those in need. Edmonton’s Food Bank, the first of its kind in Canada, has been operating since 1981 and distributes food hampers to over 22,000 people each month (approximately 40% of whom are children). They also provide nearly 500,000 meals and snacks monthly through affiliated agencies, including 59 schools in the Edmonton area. Supervised school lunch programs are an effective way to ensure that kids receive proper nutrition; sometimes their only meal of the day will be at school.
“Knowing the opera’s emphasis on hunger and poverty, we decided to collaborate with Edmonton’s Food Bank and help make a difference for the children in our community,” says Tim Yakimec, General Director of Edmonton Opera. “We hope one day Hansel & Gretel can be just what it is — a fairy tale.”
We will be accepting contributions of non-perishable items towards Edmonton’s Food Bank at every performance of Hansel & Gretel and at our Box Office (15230 128 Ave) until February 8. Most needed items for children include healthy school snacks (fruit cups, granola bars, juice boxes, peanut butter), canned fruits & vegetables, and baby formula. You may also make a donation directly to the Food Bank.