Did you know 1 in 6 kids go to school hungry?
Donate $2 to hungry children at participating stores
in Ontario and Atlantic Canada
February 5 – 19
For many of us, it’s easy to assume that access to nourishing food in adequate amounts is universal in a prosperous country like Canada. Yet the reality is that one in six children go to school hungry. As this year’s campaign video shows, even children know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Starting the day with a good meal makes learning more effective. Students who eat morning meals most days achieve better results than their counterparts who don’t eat breakfast at all or only one or two times a week. This difference is observed in areas of learning such as independent work, initiative, problem solving and class participation. Sadly, it’s all too clear that hunger hampers children’s opportunity for success.
Thankfully, it’s easy for all of us to help make a difference. Did you know that only $2 — yes, one toonie — will provide a hungry student with a nutritious breakfast?
The Grocery Foundation of Canada is running the Toonies for Tummies campaign from February 5 to 19, and it’s easy for you to donate a toonie (or more!) to this important cause. You can find a list of participating grocery stores in Ontario and Eastern Canada here (scroll to bottom of page). You can also donate online and use the tracker to see where your donation is helping in your community, at tooniesfortummies.ca.
As a token of thanks for your support, when you make a donation at a participating store in Ontario you’ll be offered a coupon booklet with $11.25 in savings (while supplies last).
In Ontario, where I live, the Toonies for Tummies campaign helps support the Ontario Student Nutrition Program (OSNP). The province has also been increasing its investment in the program. In 2012/13 there were over 695,000 Ontario children who benefited from over 4,200 breakfast programs.
Student nutrition programs are delivered locally. In the Southwestern Ontario region the Lead Agency is the Victorian Order of Nurses, Windsor-Essex. There are eight communities within the region, and each has one or two Coordinators that support the student nutrition programs. There are many agencies, community groups, school boards, schools and volunteers that work to support student nutrition. Rather than getting into administrative details of how the programs operate, I’d like to share some of what I learned when I spoke with one of the local Community Partner Coordinators in London.
First, we tend to think of children not eating breakfast as a poverty issue, but in fact there are additional reasons that a child may arrive at school hungry. These include hectic morning routines, long bus rides, getting up too late, and early sports practices. From my own experience, I know that even when there is food in the home and breakfast is encouraged, it can be a challenge getting some children to eat before they leave the house, especially as they get older.
I was also heartened to hear that the student nutrition program promotes a universal approach, to lift the stigma of neediness. What this means is that all students are welcome to have access to healthy food through the programs that are offered, without any screening based on need.
Participating schools determine how they run their programs. Some have breakfast clubs that meet before school starts, whether at the school or a nearby church, and all students are welcome. Some have snack programs whereby a bowl of snacks goes to every classroom and all students are free to help themselves. I have to admit that I’d been thinking of hunger as an issue for elementary students, but of course it also affects secondary school students. High schools may offer something like a ‘grab and go’ program that’s more suited to the teenage culture. All snack and meal programs must follow nutritional guidelines to ensure that a balance of fruits and vegetables plus one or two other food groups is available, depending on whether it’s a snack or meal.
A toonie is all it takes to fill a hungry tummy
and get a child’s school day off to a good start.
DISCLAIMER: I was invited to participate in this blogging campaign by Food Bloggers of Canada, the Social Media Partner of the 2015 Grocery Foundation’s Toonies for Tummies Program. My post will also appear on the Grocery Foundation’s blog later this month, and I’ll be promoting Toonies for Tummies on my various social media platforms. Just as I did last year, I am supporting the campaign on a volunteer basis.