Eat Smart

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY DANIEL MACEACHERN dmaceach­ern@cb­n­com­pass.ca

There are many rea­sons why some chil­dren don’t break­fast, and one is that it’s too early in the morn­ing for them, they have to travel on the bus. Hope­fully the Kids Eat Smart pro­gram will help.

On the last day of school be­fore Christ­mas break, stu­dents at Amal­ga­mated Academy re­ceived an early Christ­mas present: a hot meal.

The Bay Roberts school on Dec. 22 be­came the 200th school in New­found­land and Labrador to launch a Kids Eat Smart Club pro­gram.

The St. John’s-based Kids Eat Smart Foun­da­tion is a char­ity that works to help schools across the prov­ince set up nutri­tion pro­grams - usu­ally in the form of break­fast clubs. As of Dec. 22, the close to 700 stu­dents at Amal­ga­mated can have break­fast if they, for what­ever rea­son, didn’t eat break­fast at home.

Stu­dents cheered as school prin­ci­pal Vi­o­let Par­sons-Pack kicked off the pro­gram in the school cafe­te­ria, just be­fore of­fi­cials and teach­ers from the school and district and lo­cal vol­un­teers and Kids Eat Smart Foun­da­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tives donned plas­tic aprons served pan­cakes to stu­dents seated at long ta­bles.

“ It’s pretty cool,” said Alexan­der Car­a­van, seated with a group of his Grade 4 school­mates. Jes­sica Pike, also in Grade 4, said she plans to visit the cafe­te­ria with her friends in the morn­ing even when she eats at home first. “ I’ll eat my break­fast in here, too!” she said.

Grade 8 stu­dent Matthew Mercer says he eats break­fast ev­ery morn­ing but thinks the club will be great for stu­dents who don’t.

“ I think it’s a pretty good pro­gram, good for the school,” he said.

Prin­ci­pal Par­sons-Pack said it was a cou­ple of teach­ers at her school who sug­gested they start a pro­gram for stu­dents miss­ing their morn­ing nutri­tion.

“ We did a sur­vey, and the re­sults of the sur­vey in­di­cated that stu­dents felt there was a need, par­ents felt there was a need,” she said. “ There’s many rea­sons why some chil­dren don’t eat break­fast, and one is that it’s too early in the morn­ing for them, they have to travel on the bus. I’m sure there are a few, maybe a very small group, that don’t have break­fast (at all) at home.”

Par­sons-Pack said the pro­gram is de­signed not just so stu­dents who never eat break­fast get an op­por­tu­nity to have one, but to en­sure that all stu­dents have the chance to do so, as an empty stom­ach can in­ter­fere with their learn­ing. She said the pro­gram pro­vides a “ happy medium” for stu­dents who might not be hun­gry when they first wake up but are fam­ished af­ter a long bus ride to school.

“ By the time they get to school, they’re hun­gry. And it in­ter­feres with their learn­ing, be­cause they’re more con­cen­trated on the fact that they’re hun­gry and looking for­ward to eat­ing,” she said.

The drop-in pro­gram is free of charge, she said, and is be­ing sup­ported by com­mu­nity do­na­tions and vol­un­teers, she said, adding the club ex­pects to sup­ply break­fast to one-third of the school’s 697 stu­dents any given day.

“ So we’re looking at pos­si­bly 230 stu­dents be­ing able to, on a fairly reg­u­lar ba­sis, have a meal. Now that won’t be the same 230 ev­ery day. That will vary, but that’s gen­er­ally what you’ll get.”

A side ben­e­fit of the fundrais­ing, said Par­sons-Pack, is an im­prove­ment in the school’s re­cy­cling. The prin­ci­pal said each five-cent can they re­cy­cle is matched by the Multi Ma­te­ri­als Stew­ard­ship Board, a pro­vin­cial Crown agency run by the depart­ment of en­vi­ron­ment and con­ser­va­tion. Then, that 10 cents is matched by the Kids Eat Smart foun­da­tion, mak­ing each pop can worth 20 cents to­wards the break­fast club.

“ So we’ve started a re­cy­cling pro­gram at the school, try­ing to make our stu­dents more com­mu­nity-minded,” she said. The re­cy­cling rev- enue is be­ing added to the $ 5,000 startup grant from the Kids Eat Smart Foun­da­tion and cor­po­rate do­na­tions to keep the club go­ing, she said.

Me­lanie Stokes, the pro­gram de­vel­op­ment co-or­di­na­tor for Kids Eat Smart, said the or­ga­ni­za­tion is based on a com­mu­nity model.

“ It’s vol­un­teer-run. That can be teach­ers, com­mu­nity mem­bers, com­mu­nity groups... we have stu­dents that vol­un­teer, a lot of high school stu­dents par­tic­i­pate. They serve the break­fasts. We pro­vide the fund­ing, the ma­jor­ity of the fund­ing, and it comes from the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment and also cor­po­rate spon­sors and other pri­vate spon­sors.”

The schools in­volved also do fundrais­ing them­selves, said Stokes, adding that Kids Eat Smart matches all the fund­ing they raise.

The typ­i­cal break­fast pro­gram serves three or four break­fast foods ev­ery morn­ing, said Stokes. “A typ­i­cal break­fast would be whole-wheat toast, fresh fruit and a glass of milk.

“There’s many rea­sons why some chil­dren don’t break­fast, and one is that it’s too early in the morn­ing for them, they have to travel on the bus.

— Amal­ga­mated Academy prin­ci­pal Vi­o­let Par­sons Pack

Or an­other day might be whole-grain ce­real, yo­gurt and juice.”

Daphne LeDrew, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Kids Eat Smart Foun­da­tion, said it’s im­por­tant for the break­fast pro­gram to be there for stu­dents who might have slept in and missed a break­fast or for those stu­dents who might not nor­mally have break­fast in the morn­ings.

“ It’s im­por­tant for them to have ac­cess to nu­tri­tious foods for their over­all de­vel­op­ment and learn­ing,” she said. LeDrew said she didn’t know how many stu­dents might typ­i­cally miss break­fast, but said there are al­ways stu­dents at ev­ery school who come to class without a morn­ing meal in their stom­achs. Of­ten, she says, a long bus trip for a stu­dent might mean he or she didn’t have time to have break­fast be­fore catch­ing the bus.

“A lot of kids can’t eat be­fore they ride on the bus, so a lot of times they’re the ones that would want break­fast,” she said. “ There are all kinds of rea­sons. Get­ting up teenagers, you know?”

LeDrew said the Kids Eat Smart pro­grams are avail­able to 52,000 stu­dents across the prov­ince, and typ­i­cally 18,000 stu­dents get some form of break­fast through the pro­grams each morn­ing.

Stokes said Kids Eat Smart doesn’t plan to stop with its 200th club. She said there are plans for many more pro­grams. Of­ten, she said, schools will get in­volved when they hear about a Kids Eat Smart Club at an­other school.

“A lot of schools will ap­proach us if they hear about it from other schools, or prin­ci­pals might hear about it in prin­ci­pals’ meet­ings and they ap­proach us and we sent out a startup kit to help them start the process,” she said.

The Kids Eat Smart Foun­da­tion works with the schools on all as­pects of the club, from or­ga­niz­ing to menu prepa­ra­tion, said LeDrew. “ There’s a whole se­ries of things that hap­pen be­fore we get to this stage.”

LeDrew praised the vol­un­teers re­spon­si­ble for keep­ing Kids Eat Smart clubs go­ing. “ It’s vol­un­teer­run, so it de­pends on the sup­port of vol­un­teers in the com­mu­nity. That’s re­ally im­por­tant and a re­ally valu­able con­tri­bu­tion you can make to your com­mu­nity,” she said, adding the foun­da­tion is will­ing to work with any school or com­mu­nity to start a club.

Photo by Daniel MacEachern, The Com­pass Spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion teacher Danielle Hatch serves a plate of pan­cakes and fruit to Grade 4 stu­dent Alexan­der Car­a­van at Amal­ga­mated Academy in Bay Roberts.

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