I have long been a proponent of the power of food in creating connections, opening up doors, and breaking down barriers. Food is a natural connector. Food is a shared basic need required to survive and thrive. Food is the natural common denominator that helps us bond with each other.
For me, food is a necessary ingredient at all of my events. It helps to put individuals at ease and it provides an easy topic of conversation: who made this wonderful dish? can I have the recipe? Food is also something that we need to think clearly, to learn, and to process ideas.
Unfortunately not everyone has equal access to food.
This is a fact that I am reminded of every September when I visit my daughters’ school and I speak with the Childcare Support Teacher who runs a Breakfast for Learning program. This program serves a basic breakfast and lunch to between 30 – 50 students (in a population of about 450) on any given day to ensure that all students have access to the food they need to learn, to excel, and to do their best.
According to the Breakfast for Learning website 1 in 6 children face hunger every year. That’s a startling statistic in our communities. Certainly one that we don’t hear, especially when you consider the impact of hunger and access to nutritious food on learning outcomes, classroom behaviour’s, and long-term health.
“Hunger has a huge impact on a child’s ability to learn and function. It prevents them from reaching their full potential in the classroom, and in life. Children who go to school hungry risk many lifelong consequences including less developed literacy and numeracy skills and poor health due to a lack of good nutrition. This can impact long-term physical and mental health and socio-economic outcomes.”
The Breakfast for Learning program was founded in 1992 by the editors of Canadian Living Magazine who were committed to helping Canadian children have a better chance at a secure future, thereby strengthening families. In 2016 they continue to work their magic, funding over 1600 programs across the nation. One of them is located at my daughter’s school. That hits very close to home knowing that some of the students in my daughter’s classes are sitting there hungry…and doing their best to learn while their tummies are grumbling.
While the Breakfast for Learning provides great foundational funding for many school breakfast and lunch program, more financial resources are always needed. To top off the funding, many food donations are secured through local partnerships with restaurants, coffee shops and the food bank. However, fresh fruit and vegetables are costly and hard to come by.
So, as I wrap up this article, I want each of you to consider what does childhood hunger look like in your community? At your children’s school? What programs and services exist to help the today's students grow into their role as the leaders of tomorrow?
I invite you learn more about the Breakfast for Learning program and what the need is in your local schools. After all the children of today are our future leaders, and we want them to have every opportunity to excel!
Let us know what you learn... and how you are choosing to respond.