Does your school have a breakfast club? What kind of images come to mind when you think of breakfast clubs? Or any supplemental food program in our schools? Is it something you only imagine is needed in low income areas? That the students who partake are there because of poverty or neglect at home? If so, please keep reading. The reality of the situation here in Ontario may just surprise you.
Founded in 1979, The Grocery Foundation partners with the Breakfast Club of Canada and with The Ontario Student Nutrition Program Network to help provide the fuel to keep young minds learning. Government grants provide only 15% of the funding needed to run Student Nutrition Programs in Ontario. Campaigns like #Toonies4Tummies help make up the 85% funding deficit after government grants.
So, that’s great stuff, you say. Somebody else’s kid probably needs that, but mine certainly don’t. Except they might -in our own elementary school, we have a roughly 62% participation rate in our snack program. That means, on any given Tuesday or Thursday (when our snack program runs), approximately 225 of our 364 students will take what is being offered from the cart that goes from room to room. Overall, this is significantly higher than the just under 50% participation rate across our school board.
What does that mean? It means that there’s a very good chance my own kids are eating from that cart, even though we send them to school with full lunch bags every day. They don’t ‘need to’ access it, not in the traditional sense, but they can. In their school, there is no stigma whatsoever in taking food from the snack lady. And that is one of the aims of The Grocery Foundation – erasing barriers and ending stigma.
The #Toonies4Tummies 2017 Campaign
I recently had a chance to talk with Nicola Lyle, Regional Manager for the Central East Student Nutrition Program. She had a number of interesting things to teach me about The Grocery Foundation and the #Toonies4Tummies program. Here are the highlights:
- Children participate in the school nutrition programs based entirely on want, never based on a perceived ‘need’ – any child who wishes to access a program, may – no questions asked.
- Depending on the facilities at the school, snacks and/or meals may be served. What’s the difference? A snack has two food groups, a meal has three.
- Food insecurity is not the only reason for participation in the program. The reasons are incredibly diverse. Everything from early morning sports practice, late pick up from after school care, lengthy rural bus routes, growth spurts, forgetting to bring lunch, or simply really liking what is being offered that day are all reasons children access school nutrition programs.
- The only money that can be used for administrative costs must come from the 15% of the budget the government provides. 100% of all funds raised through donation go 100% to food for the kids.
- Volunteers are the key to carrying out the program in every area; without them, them, there is no way the program could survive.
- Because each program is led locally, they are better able to adapt to regional needs such as religious and cultural dietary restrictions, or even seasonal need.
- The programs are able to work directly with local farmers – a win/win situation for everybody. Those weird looking apples and two-legged carrots are gladly welcomed into the kitchens of the Student Nutrition Program, reducing food waste and giving the kids fresh food to eat.
How Can You Participate in #Toonies4Tummies?
So glad you asked! Beginning February 9, 2017, you can donate Toonie to help feed a child in your area. Every cent that you donate will stay and feed the kids down the street and across town. And it’s simple. Add $2 to your grocery bill when you shop at a participating store. For a full list of participants, see here. The goal this year is to raise $850,000. And when you shop at Metro, Food Basics, Longo’s, and Save-On-Foods, the stores will also make an additional donation when you buy any of the items from their select list. So, head on over to the Toonies4Tummies microsite today where you can see how your pocket change is helping children in your community, and don’t forget to donate at the checkout when the cashier asks you if you want to support #Toonies4Tummies.