For as long as I can remember, we have been taught that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s meant to get our engines started and provide the fuel needed for a smooth ride through school or work. Now, imagine trying to navigate your day on an empty tank. You’re hungry, irritated, tired, and can’t concentrate. That’s difficult enough for an adult to handle, but did you know 1 in 6 kids goes through that every day?
The Grocery Foundation is working hard to eradicate food insecurity for the students in your neighborhood and in communities across the country. With the help of their very generous sponsors and donations from people just like you and me, they hope to reach a goal of $850 000 this year, which will provide over 1.7 Million healthy snacks and meals for the hungry students who rely on school breakfast programs. All it takes is a $2 and you can become part of the solution and all of the donations received in your community stay in your community!
Fun Fact: Since 2000 The Grocery Foundation, along with community and industry support has raised $14,986,614 to directly fund breakfast programs for hungry students in Canada.
How You Can Help
All it takes is a toonie! February 9-23 visit a participating grocery store in your area to shop sponsor brands and donate $2. Also, while supplies last, Ontario shoppers at Food Basics, Metro, Longo’s, and Save-On-Foods will receive a coupon booklet as a thank-you for making a donation. You can also help by sharing about Toonies for Tummies online by using the hashtag #toonies4tummies!
Screen grab from The Grocery Foundation Website
Agents of Change
Student nutrition isn’t just an adult-led initiative. The Grocery Foundation and Toonies for Tummies encourage peer to peer conversations by selecting Agent of Change Ambassadors in 11 Ontario regions, to speak up and speak out to fellow students about the importance of starting their school day adequately nourished. I had the pleasure of speaking with Jonathon, a Grade 12 student for the Sudbury/Manitoulin region, to find out more about this student-led initiative.
1. What are your thoughts on student nutrition and its impact?
I think that having these types of services available in schools for those students who are hungry is amazing. It allows those accessing it to have a hunger for knowledge throughout the day, not for food. I love the fact that there is a huge decrease in stigma surrounding these programs and that they can be accessed freely.
2. Can you give us a brief overview of your presentation at the Summit?
This year we didn’t have a summit but we did have our annual Gala in which I attended with one other student who won a contest that the Agents of Change and The Grocery Foundation had put out to schools. We gave the students the question “What does Student Nutrition mean to you?” and we then picked randomly one student who entered to come to our Gala. The Gala was amazing this year. Myself as a “newbie” working with the Grocery Foundation found it very informative.
(Editor’s note: I mistakenly inquired about the Agents of Change Summit that took place last year. Instead, this year student ambassadors were invited to attend ‘A Night to Nurture Gala’ in Toronto. I apologize for any confusion and appreciate Jonathon’s redirected response.)
3. Why is it important to engage other students on the topic of student nutrition?
It’s important to engage students because some students may not understand how to access these programs in their schools, or feel awkward discussing or asking about Student Nutrition. There is still some stigma around Student Nutrition I’m not going to lie and try and sugar coat it. BUT, it had decreased dramatically from when I was a kid accessing these breakfast programs and snack programs. By engaging students in this topic it can break down the stigma, increase awareness, and hopefully get more people involved. It takes a community to raise a child, and these programs definitely assist in that growth.
4. Besides donations, how can others help to encourage change and growth in student nutrition programs?
The best way is to just get involved in whatever way you can. If your a student, reach out to your principals or teacher running these programs and ask to help, if your parent or a community member reach out to your child’s school and ask to get involved in the student nutrition programs, reach out to your local SNP (Student Nutrition Program) lead agency and inquire about volunteering. It’s a very easy step and process to get involved and it helps our community in so many ways.
5. What encouraged you specifically, to get involved?
I’m very active in the Non-For-Profit Sector and Social Service Sectors. I have been able to work with some of the most dedicated and hard working people in the field. I’ve worked at The Spot Program, The Sudbury Youth Rocks Program, Better Beginnings Better Futures, APANO and most recently The Grocery Foundation. Luckily with these experiences I have some background knowledge in social services and honestly, the hardest thing to see is someone who is hungry and doesn’t know where to go to get food, it is the most heartbreaking thing. I got into the habit of packing extra food when I’d go to work so I could help. I got involved because I think we need to expand and keep growing these programs, finding new ways to deliver them, so that hopefully in a few years there is nobody hungry anymore. We need to work together, all communities, all agencies to make a change. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, or what religion you practice, or how much money your family makes, we are all connected in some way, and we need to strengthen that connection and work together to keep building and evolving these wonderful programs.
Can’t make it into a store? DONATE ONLINE HERE
Thank you to Jonathon who took the time to talk to me about the importance of student nutrition and this crucial initiative to ensure students across the country are not starting their school day hungry. I was hired to help spread the word about the #Toonies4Tummies initiative but any opinions that have been expressed are my own.
Featured Image Credit: Geoff Ruddock via Flickr