All kids deserve healthy food every day in school.
And in Waterloo Region, over 23,000 students in 141 schools will again have access to healthy food while they learn this year.
With the support of a local charity, Nutrition for Learning, a great number of volunteers and donors continue to assist in bringing a universally accessible program to students across the region.
This also includes schools within the rural townships such as, Waterloo Oxford High School, St. Teresa of Avila Catholic School in Elmira, St. Boniface School in Maryhill, Elmira District Secondary School and Holy Family School in New Hamburg.
When children are hungry, it’s very difficult to learn.
Nutrition for Learning continues to support the overall well-being of students and their ability to learn by ensuring that every student can attend school well nourished.
“There should never be a reason for a hunger moment,” says Brian Banks, interim executive director at Nutrition for Learning.
“And this program builds community. Everyone sits around the table together.”
Banks says that these programs play a major role in building a community of students who can nurture the potential in each other with healthy food options, offering an equal chance of success in the classroom for all children and youth.
And the benefits are often seen among teachers, volunteers and administrators.
“It’s so true. If we put them on the same solid, equal ground, they have a better chance at learning and graduating,” Banks said. “They are able to have better attention, greater focus and graduation rates are higher.”
According to Nutrition for Learning, at every grade level, classrooms are better places when students have access to the food and nutrition they need. They are more attentive and productive and the entire community benefits when schools function at a higher level.
Since 1997, Nutrition for Learning has believed that investing in students will result in positive outcomes in the future for them and for their communities.
Empirical evidence shows that these programs influence dramatic drops in Type 2 Diabetes (up to 34 per cent), and an ability to improve memory and focus in the classroom increasing opportunities to engage in the classroom in a more constructive way.
And according to a Waterloo Region School Health Report, only 1/3 of adolescents eat enough fruits and vegetables.
Nutrition for Learning says that the goal is to provide nutritious food within reach of all students regardless of socio-economic background. “The goal is to be universal so that all schools have access to healthy food, but every school is different, like a fingerprint,” Banks says.
“It depends on the school’s funding and number of volunteers for example. They all differ, but the aim is to provide all schools with healthy food five days a week and as far into the school year as possible.”
Nutrition for Learning is a partner with Student Nutrition Ontario (SNO) which is a network of 14 lead agencies and 39 community partnerships which help provide funding and support for healthy breakfast, snack and lunch programs across the province.
With seed funding from the province of Ontario, SNO lead agencies and their partners work to support the success of local nutrition programs enabling students to eat, learn and succeed.
About 2,000 volunteers help run the Nutrition for Learning programs in the Waterloo Region District School Board, Waterloo Catholic District School Board and the French School Board.
“Schools are always looking for help, and there is always a need. We could not do it without our volunteers,” Banks said. “They make it happen at all of these schools and we are so grateful to them.”
For anyone interested in donating to a certain school, they can do so at www.nutritionforlearning.ca