Several years ago the Student Nutrition Program at my children’s school stopped serving food. The program suddenly found itself without a coordinator, and with a number of parents who felt it was unnecessary, it seemed like the breakfast program was going to end. As a teacher who was on maternity leave with my 3rd child, this was very upsetting to me as I had experienced first hand what it’s like to teach students who don’t have enough fuel to get through their day. I hadn’t planned on coordinating a Student Nutrition Program but I just couldn’t stand by and let the program fall apart. So I volunteered for the job!
All students can benefit from Student Nutrition Programs regardless of their socio-economic status. Children of all ages come to school hungry for a variety of reasons including long bus rides, rushed morning routines, early morning practices, not enough food in the home, family emergencies, and sometimes just not feeling hungry first thing in the morning. When I started coordinating the Student Nutrition Program, I realized there were many misconceptions. I simplified the menu, recruited volunteers and started talking to other parents about the program. Once the program became well established, the amount of food we served started to increase. This was a school of 624 students and they were eating a lot of food! The program was serving hundreds of apples, carrot sticks, mini muffins, cheese cubes, and yogurt tubes each day. Thankfully, the parents and grandparents started to see the value in the program and we usually had between 35-40 volunteers helping out. Our Student Nutrition Program began to grow and it finally became a universal program and a vital part of the school community.
I always thought I would return to teaching, but when the opportunity to become a Community Development Coordinator for schools in Peterborough City and County arose, I felt like it was the next step for me. I believe that student Nutrition Programs are an indispensable part of schools, and I wanted to be more involved. Going into the job, I knew Student Nutrition Programs could be a powerful tool for teaching and modelling life-long healthy eating habits. What I didn’t realize was the lifetime impact these programs could have on students. The most surprising part of this new job came when adults started sharing their stories with me. Stories about how Student Nutrition Programs had changed their lives – like the parents who were going through a separation and the kids who were not always getting healthy food or even enough food at home, the Student Nutrition Program fed them as they were coping with huge and difficult changes in their family life. Or the family who experienced the death of a parent and relied on the Student Nutrition Program as they tried to cope with the challenges they faced. Or the parents who didn’t know much about healthy eating and the Student Nutrition Program which taught the children about healthy food choices and living a healthy lifestyle.
The Toonies for Tummies Campaign is a wonderful way to support Student Nutrition Programs and to give back to our communities. The campaign runs from Feb. 9-23rd and each time you donate a Toonie the money goes directly to local Student Nutrition Programs. It’s a small act of kindness which adds up to a big difference in people’s lives.
- Angela F., Community Development Coordinator for schools in Peterborough City and County
The Student Nutrition Program of Central Eastern Ontario works to ensure all children in the region attend school well nourished and ready to learn! Follow them on Twitter @SNPCE.