Hello everyone, this is my first time writing a blog, so please forgive any “blunder” I may include.
My name is Benedita and I co-ordinate the Breakfast Club at a local elementary school in Bradford – the name of the school is St. Jean de Brebeuf Catholic School, and we are an elementary school from SK/JK to Grade 8.
Our breakfasts are simple, but very nutritious. On Tuesdays we usually have fresh baked muffins and they always have some type of fruit or vegetable incorporated into their baking (Carrots in Carrot Muffins / Bananas in Banana Muffins / Apples in Oatmeal Apple Cinnamon Muffins / Beets in Double Chocolate Muffins/ etc…) children also have a fruit, yogurt, milk and juice. They are free to choose what they like, and take it to a table and eat while they talk to their buddies. On Thursdays we sometimes have bagels with cream cheese, other times cereal, it varies, but we always have yogurts, milk, fruit, and juices, together with a form of carbohydrates, and sometimes protein (cheese).
It all started because we noticed that a few students were not quite as alert as others, and because we could see the benefits of having a social time for children of all ages to interact and have a meal together and start their day in a good way.
So in 2011 I applied to everywhere that I could to try and obtain funds. The first funds that I was able to obtain were from “Breakfast for Learning Program”; this organization dedicates itself to provide funds to schools for precisely this reason, to help children that need this type of program.
In may attempt to have these funds, one of the things I wanted to be sure that would not happen would be to stigmatize any child as a “needy child”… we all know these children often face enough problems, they certainly would not need to add another one to their list – so to avoid this, Breakfast Club became OPEN TO EVERYONE (at our school), and that means all students, staff and teachers are welcome to come and take something to eat. This way “no stigma” is attached to anyone in particular, and all are happy to partake and shared meal, and talk to one another across the “breakfast table” (mind you… our breakfasts are in the gym… but everyone enjoys it and has a good time!)
In my endeavour, I also came across quite a few obstacles, mainly financial ones…. I only received 25% of the required financial help that I needed to make breakfast for the year 2011/2012 – so I reached out to our local business, and was quite happy to have a few come to our aid! Home Depot donated the appliances to our school kitchen necessary to start this program – we could not have done it without them! We also, had a couple of local farmers come to our aid, Eek Farms and Caron Farms, donating carrots (Eek Farms) and beets (Caron Farms) during 2011/2012.
This school year we faced all new hurdles…. Financing became once again the major issue, we only received 40% of what we needed for our Breakfast Club, mind you, we now have the appliances thanks to Home Depot, and so our budget needs were not as great.
So once again I reached out to our local businesses, and this time we had Scotia Bank with some help and generosity from their clients, donated some funds to our school. We were also very please to have a similar donation from our local Walmart in Bradford, that continues to help when they can, as well as some valued gifts in kind (fruits) from our local Sobeys Supermarket, also Caron Farms this year is selling their beets at a discount price to our school, and last, but certainly not least, Eek Farms continues to donate their delicious carrots to our school, with which we make carrot snacks and carrot muffins for the children.
I have also been contacted by a local organization – “Mom to Mom” – that would like to donate the proceeds of their sale on May 4th (so ladies mark your calendars!!) to help our Breakfast Club at St. Jean de Brebeuf.
In 2008 there was a report done on the benefits of a Breakfast Program that was free at all schools and open to all students – here are some of the facts from that report:
“Report done by:
Dr. J. Larry Brown, Harvard School of Public Health
Dr. William H. Beardslee, Harvard Medical School
Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith, Harvard School of Public Health
“Universal Free” school breakfasts…
There exists no “safe” level of inadequate nutrition for healthy, growing children. Even nutritional deficiencies of a relatively short duration – a missed breakfast, an inadequate lunch – impair children’s ability to function and learn. When children attend school inadequately nourished, their bodies conserve the limited food energy that is available. Energy is first reserved for critical organ functions. If sufficient energy remains, it then is allocated for growth. The last priority is for social activity and learning. As a result, undernourished children become more apathetic and have impaired cognitive capacity.
… the combined and quite consistent message of this body of research is that serving breakfast to those school children who don’t get it elsewhere significantly improves their cognitive or mental abilities, enabling them to be more alert, pay better attention, and to do better in terms of reading, math and other standardized test scores. Children who eat breakfast also are sick less often, have fewer problems associated with hunger, such as dizziness, lethargy, stomachaches and earaches, and do significantly better than their non-breakfasted peers in terms of cooperation, discipline and inter-personal behaviors.
1. Cognitive and Educational Benefits
Significantly, the better outcomes associated with school breakfast include both educational preparedness (attendance, energy, alertness, memory) and educational outcome measures (math scores, grades, reading ability).
Improved attendance and less tardiness
Better Concentration, alertness, energy
Better Overall academic performance
Better Comprehension, learning, memory
Math, reading and standardized test scores – notably improve
2. Health-Related Benefits
Better overall diet
Better eating habits
Improved nutritional status
3. Behavioral and Psychosocial Benefits
Discipline and social behaviour (This research also found a corresponding decrease in discipline problems directly corresponding to participation in the breakfast program)
Aggression and suspensions – decreased significantly
4. Underutilization of the School Breakfast Program
While the highly significant effect of this relationship is now borne out by a strong body of scholarly research, the importance of feeding children so they will be able to learn is something long known:
Another way to insure that more eligible children receive the benefits of a school breakfast is to offer the meals free of charge to all students irrespective of household income. Many students eligible for free or low-cost meals elect not to participate even if their school district offers a breakfast program because they do not want to be stigmatized as being poor.
A related benefit of the universal free breakfast program is that school districts are relieved of the burden of checking the eligibility of each student for a free, reduced-price or full-pay meal.
The lessened paperwork and handling of financial forms, as well as reports to state and federal government agencies, saves local school officials much of the burden of administering the breakfast program. (no income loss in bureaucracy)
The body of evidence, drawn from more than 100 published research articles, provides the scientific basis for concluding that the federal School Breakfast Program is highly effective in terms of providing children with a stronger basis to learn in school, eat more nutritious diets, and lead more healthy lives both emotionally and physically.”
As a mom, all I want to do is make sure all kids go to school well nourished and ready to learn, my only regret is that I cannot do it EVERY SINGLE DAY, so we only have the funds to do it twice per week – every Tuesday and Thursday. But on those days the kids come together in our gym, enjoy a meal together, talk, laugh, interact across all grades, there is no gender or income discrimination, and they all leave all the better for it!
Mind you I do not act alone – there is a group of ladies and a few gentlemen that help me out every Tuesday and Thursday, and some on Mondays when I’m baking muffins…. They are amazing individuals! And their support and dedication is what makes this Breakfast Club happen every Tuesday and Thursday! But without the support of our local business and local farmers, we certainly would not be able to continue!!
There is a saying…. “It takes a village to raise a child”, it has never been truer than in our case!
Our Volunteers, our Teachers, our Staff, our Bradford Local Businesses (Home Depot; Scotia Bank; and Walmart) and our Holland Marsh Local Farmers (Eek Farms and Caron Farms) have enabled this Breakfast Club to start, and flourish, and hopefully continue at our school and help all the children within it!
Thank you all for your tremendous support, your generosity and most of all your kindness to our children!