Teachers and volunteers see the benefits of breakfast and snack programs

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This story is part of a four-part series called A Healthy Start and is sponsored by Breakfast Club of Canada, reaching 500,000 children every day in more than 3,000 school and community programs.

Teachers and school volunteers can attest to the impact of children starting the day with empty stomachs. Whether it’s a rushed morning or a shortage of food at home that day, the consequences of skipping breakfast are obvious. Equally noticeable are the benefits when children have the opportunity to fill up on something nutritious before tackling the day ahead.

Lindsay Cary, coordinator of the Breakfast Club of Canada at Salem Elementary School in Sackville, New Brunswick, says that when children can enjoy that all-important first meal of the day, the overall tone of the school changes. for the best. The organization’s programs are available to all students in the schools where they operate, using a walk-in model for easy access.

“Children come to the Club for different reasons. Food insecurity is absolutely one of those reasons, but for many families things are chaotic in the morning. [good] good reasons to participate in the Breakfast Club,” she said.

The teachers at the school let Cary know how grateful they are for the nutritious foods that are offered each morning because of the impact it has on the classroom. She explains that hungry students can have difficulty learning and concentrating, so teachers see the benefits of a healthy eating program every day.

A volunteer with the Salem Elementary breakfast program for six years and coordinator for three, Cary notices an increase in the number of children participating in the program immediately after schools close, such as March Break, long weekends and especially during the pandemic when schools re-opened to in-person learning. It’s a trend she says can mean food insecurity at home and it’s something volunteers plan for when they put together their breakfast offerings each week.

“We will see an increase in the amount of food we consume [serving] the morning after these school closures,” she explained.

Ryan del Sol, a teacher with the Toronto District School Board, says he’s seen the benefits of healthy snack programs and breakfast programs firsthand in his nine years of teaching. When students arrive hungry, it’s obvious.

“The main problem is lethargy. They are less energetic, they are less committed,” del Sol explained.

“There have been extreme cases in schools where children have come to my door with tears in their eyes, upset and angry because they were hungry. These are extreme situations. »

When school food programs are integrated, he sees a big change in a child’s ability to learn and cope throughout the day. “They are happier, more engaged, less irritable. They are more consistent at all levels. It’s especially important right now with everything they’ve just been through during the pandemic. Before you can climb that learning pyramid, you have to take care of those basic needs,” del Sol said.

The mid-morning healthy snack program at her current school gets students excited as the clock ticks towards snack time. Del Sol says they are looking forward to what the snack might be like that day. At a previous school where he taught, there was a breakfast program that had a big impact on the school culture in general.

“I’ve always liked the breakfast program because it has a different vibe. Children arrive early to eat together, it’s a community spirit and all kinds of children arrive early to eat. It’s very impactful and you see it meets more needs,” del Sol explained.

For Cary, she considers school food programs an integral part of her New Brunswick community.

“It’s part of this social safety net that exists for families. Just knowing that your kids are having a healthy breakfast at school goes a long way. It is also a wonderful volunteer opportunity for families and community members.