Hunger stands in the way of student success, says Toronto foundation

News Oct 24, 2017 by Justin Skinner City Centre Mirror

With roughly one in three Toronto kids living in poverty and 40 per cent coming to school hungry every day, it’s nearly impossible for far too many youngsters to be at their best throughout the school day.

Hunger is a serious problem that affects grades, behaviour and graduation rates, and with Toronto holding the dubious title of Canada’s child poverty capital two years running according to a study released last year by a group of social service agencies, the issue seems unlikely to abate.

There is some hope through programs such as the Toronto Foundation for Student Success (TFSS), which provide meals through student nutrition programs to help all students start their school day on equal footing.

Abigail, a Grade 8 student at D A Morrison Middle School, noted that the program helps ensure she and her classmates are sure to start their day fed – something that might not be the case for far too many otherwise.

“Some people don’t eat breakfast, and (the nutrition program) has things like pancakes and oatmeal,” she said. “It fills my stomach so I won’t have to wait for lunch. That helps me focus in class.”

Fellow D A Morrison student Kiona uses the school’s breakfast program some days, when she wasn’t able to eat from home for whatever reason.

“You get more energy and you feel better the whole day in school,” she said.

Student nutrition programs aren’t simply for kids whose families’ budgets are stretched. Some have parents who are pressed for time, work difficult hours or otherwise have trouble ensuring their kids have full stomachs before they walk out the door. All told, roughly 200,000 Toronto students partake in the more than 800 student nutrition programs city-wide.

Child hunger is a problem that has been addressed head-on by many other developed nations, where student nutrition programs are a fact of life.

“Canada is the only G7 country that doesn’t have a national child nutrition program,” said Sandra Best of the TFSS.

She argues that such programs should be present in all schools, not just those in less affluent neighbourhoods, and that all students should be encouraged to join.

“It will help get rid of the stigma,” she said. “And in such a diverse city, when you’re playing in the playground with someone you sat next to at breakfast that morning, you’ve already broken bread with them and you’re going to see new friendships.”

Catherine Parsonage, executive director and CEO of the TFSS, noted there is a marked difference when kids start their days off with a healthy and nutritious breakfast every day. In elementary school, students can focus more. According to studies conducted by the organization, that leads to a nine to 12 per cent increase in literacy, a 10 per cent increase in math scores, and a whopping 18 per cent increase in science marks.

“And then when you get to high school, when children are fed every day, suspensions are cut in half and graduation rates go up 17 per cent,” she said.

Behavioural problems also decrease as students are generally more content, and incidents with law enforcement go down.

More needs to be done to ensure all students enjoy those benefits, however. While a healthy breakfast provided through an in-school program only costs about $1.66 per student, the City of Toronto and the province only provide about 26 cents of that. Corporate and private donors contribute greatly to many student nutrition programs, but there is still a need for more funding.

“On average, students only have milk four times a month,” Parsonage said.

She added that, of the 40 per cent of students who go to school hungry, 20 per cent don’t have lunch, either. Dinner too often consists of processed or fast food due to the fact that it tends to be cheaper and more convenient than healthier alternatives.

Programs such as Beyond 3:30, which offers after-school cooking classes to students using healthy ingredients.

“They learn lessons they can take home – they can say ‘here’s an onion, a carrot, a potato and a chicken breast. What can I make for three people with it?’” Parsonage said.

Mazon Canada is referred to as “the Jewish response to hunger” but provides funding for food programs serving all faiths. Jay Brodbar of Mazon said the importance of keeping kids fed goes beyond simply avoiding hunger pains.

“Hunger is a need in and of itself, but kids who eat can focus more on school, learn better and have more self-esteem,” he said.

According to Divided City: Life in Canada’s Child Poverty Capital, a 2016 report by a coalition of social service agencies, 29 per cent of food bank users are children, and food bank use increased by 13 per cent from just 799,320 visits in 2008 to 905,970 visits in 2016.

To learn more about student nutrition programs, visit www.tfss.ca.

Hunger stands in the way of student success, says Toronto foundation

News Oct 24, 2017 by Justin Skinner City Centre Mirror

With roughly one in three Toronto kids living in poverty and 40 per cent coming to school hungry every day, it’s nearly impossible for far too many youngsters to be at their best throughout the school day.

Hunger is a serious problem that affects grades, behaviour and graduation rates, and with Toronto holding the dubious title of Canada’s child poverty capital two years running according to a study released last year by a group of social service agencies, the issue seems unlikely to abate.

There is some hope through programs such as the Toronto Foundation for Student Success (TFSS), which provide meals through student nutrition programs to help all students start their school day on equal footing.

Abigail, a Grade 8 student at D A Morrison Middle School, noted that the program helps ensure she and her classmates are sure to start their day fed – something that might not be the case for far too many otherwise.

“It will help get rid of the stigma. And in such a diverse city, when you’re playing in the playground with someone you sat next to at breakfast that morning, you’ve already broken bread with them and you’re going to see new friendships.”
~Sandra Best, TFSS

“Some people don’t eat breakfast, and (the nutrition program) has things like pancakes and oatmeal,” she said. “It fills my stomach so I won’t have to wait for lunch. That helps me focus in class.”

Fellow D A Morrison student Kiona uses the school’s breakfast program some days, when she wasn’t able to eat from home for whatever reason.

“You get more energy and you feel better the whole day in school,” she said.

Student nutrition programs aren’t simply for kids whose families’ budgets are stretched. Some have parents who are pressed for time, work difficult hours or otherwise have trouble ensuring their kids have full stomachs before they walk out the door. All told, roughly 200,000 Toronto students partake in the more than 800 student nutrition programs city-wide.

Child hunger is a problem that has been addressed head-on by many other developed nations, where student nutrition programs are a fact of life.

“Canada is the only G7 country that doesn’t have a national child nutrition program,” said Sandra Best of the TFSS.

She argues that such programs should be present in all schools, not just those in less affluent neighbourhoods, and that all students should be encouraged to join.

“It will help get rid of the stigma,” she said. “And in such a diverse city, when you’re playing in the playground with someone you sat next to at breakfast that morning, you’ve already broken bread with them and you’re going to see new friendships.”

Catherine Parsonage, executive director and CEO of the TFSS, noted there is a marked difference when kids start their days off with a healthy and nutritious breakfast every day. In elementary school, students can focus more. According to studies conducted by the organization, that leads to a nine to 12 per cent increase in literacy, a 10 per cent increase in math scores, and a whopping 18 per cent increase in science marks.

“And then when you get to high school, when children are fed every day, suspensions are cut in half and graduation rates go up 17 per cent,” she said.

Behavioural problems also decrease as students are generally more content, and incidents with law enforcement go down.

More needs to be done to ensure all students enjoy those benefits, however. While a healthy breakfast provided through an in-school program only costs about $1.66 per student, the City of Toronto and the province only provide about 26 cents of that. Corporate and private donors contribute greatly to many student nutrition programs, but there is still a need for more funding.

“On average, students only have milk four times a month,” Parsonage said.

She added that, of the 40 per cent of students who go to school hungry, 20 per cent don’t have lunch, either. Dinner too often consists of processed or fast food due to the fact that it tends to be cheaper and more convenient than healthier alternatives.

Programs such as Beyond 3:30, which offers after-school cooking classes to students using healthy ingredients.

“They learn lessons they can take home – they can say ‘here’s an onion, a carrot, a potato and a chicken breast. What can I make for three people with it?’” Parsonage said.

Mazon Canada is referred to as “the Jewish response to hunger” but provides funding for food programs serving all faiths. Jay Brodbar of Mazon said the importance of keeping kids fed goes beyond simply avoiding hunger pains.

“Hunger is a need in and of itself, but kids who eat can focus more on school, learn better and have more self-esteem,” he said.

According to Divided City: Life in Canada’s Child Poverty Capital, a 2016 report by a coalition of social service agencies, 29 per cent of food bank users are children, and food bank use increased by 13 per cent from just 799,320 visits in 2008 to 905,970 visits in 2016.

To learn more about student nutrition programs, visit www.tfss.ca.

Hunger stands in the way of student success, says Toronto foundation

News Oct 24, 2017 by Justin Skinner City Centre Mirror

With roughly one in three Toronto kids living in poverty and 40 per cent coming to school hungry every day, it’s nearly impossible for far too many youngsters to be at their best throughout the school day.

Hunger is a serious problem that affects grades, behaviour and graduation rates, and with Toronto holding the dubious title of Canada’s child poverty capital two years running according to a study released last year by a group of social service agencies, the issue seems unlikely to abate.

There is some hope through programs such as the Toronto Foundation for Student Success (TFSS), which provide meals through student nutrition programs to help all students start their school day on equal footing.

Abigail, a Grade 8 student at D A Morrison Middle School, noted that the program helps ensure she and her classmates are sure to start their day fed – something that might not be the case for far too many otherwise.

“It will help get rid of the stigma. And in such a diverse city, when you’re playing in the playground with someone you sat next to at breakfast that morning, you’ve already broken bread with them and you’re going to see new friendships.”
~Sandra Best, TFSS

“Some people don’t eat breakfast, and (the nutrition program) has things like pancakes and oatmeal,” she said. “It fills my stomach so I won’t have to wait for lunch. That helps me focus in class.”

Fellow D A Morrison student Kiona uses the school’s breakfast program some days, when she wasn’t able to eat from home for whatever reason.

“You get more energy and you feel better the whole day in school,” she said.

Student nutrition programs aren’t simply for kids whose families’ budgets are stretched. Some have parents who are pressed for time, work difficult hours or otherwise have trouble ensuring their kids have full stomachs before they walk out the door. All told, roughly 200,000 Toronto students partake in the more than 800 student nutrition programs city-wide.

Child hunger is a problem that has been addressed head-on by many other developed nations, where student nutrition programs are a fact of life.

“Canada is the only G7 country that doesn’t have a national child nutrition program,” said Sandra Best of the TFSS.

She argues that such programs should be present in all schools, not just those in less affluent neighbourhoods, and that all students should be encouraged to join.

“It will help get rid of the stigma,” she said. “And in such a diverse city, when you’re playing in the playground with someone you sat next to at breakfast that morning, you’ve already broken bread with them and you’re going to see new friendships.”

Catherine Parsonage, executive director and CEO of the TFSS, noted there is a marked difference when kids start their days off with a healthy and nutritious breakfast every day. In elementary school, students can focus more. According to studies conducted by the organization, that leads to a nine to 12 per cent increase in literacy, a 10 per cent increase in math scores, and a whopping 18 per cent increase in science marks.

“And then when you get to high school, when children are fed every day, suspensions are cut in half and graduation rates go up 17 per cent,” she said.

Behavioural problems also decrease as students are generally more content, and incidents with law enforcement go down.

More needs to be done to ensure all students enjoy those benefits, however. While a healthy breakfast provided through an in-school program only costs about $1.66 per student, the City of Toronto and the province only provide about 26 cents of that. Corporate and private donors contribute greatly to many student nutrition programs, but there is still a need for more funding.

“On average, students only have milk four times a month,” Parsonage said.

She added that, of the 40 per cent of students who go to school hungry, 20 per cent don’t have lunch, either. Dinner too often consists of processed or fast food due to the fact that it tends to be cheaper and more convenient than healthier alternatives.

Programs such as Beyond 3:30, which offers after-school cooking classes to students using healthy ingredients.

“They learn lessons they can take home – they can say ‘here’s an onion, a carrot, a potato and a chicken breast. What can I make for three people with it?’” Parsonage said.

Mazon Canada is referred to as “the Jewish response to hunger” but provides funding for food programs serving all faiths. Jay Brodbar of Mazon said the importance of keeping kids fed goes beyond simply avoiding hunger pains.

“Hunger is a need in and of itself, but kids who eat can focus more on school, learn better and have more self-esteem,” he said.

According to Divided City: Life in Canada’s Child Poverty Capital, a 2016 report by a coalition of social service agencies, 29 per cent of food bank users are children, and food bank use increased by 13 per cent from just 799,320 visits in 2008 to 905,970 visits in 2016.

To learn more about student nutrition programs, visit www.tfss.ca.