VIP Bus Tour
The students were the real VIPs on this tour
On Monday, the 3rd of October, three representatives from MAZON Canada, including board member Shelly Markel, volunteer Valerie Sloman and new National Executive Director, Ida McLaughlin, were among the invited guests that participated in a VIP Bus Tour of Toronto schools operating meal programs for students in need. The VIP Bus Tour was organized by the Toronto Foundation for Student Success (TFSS), a charitable foundation that operates at arm’s length from the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). The 20 VIPs on the tour included local politicians, representatives from organizations that supply food to the breakfast programs, and members of funding organizations like MAZON.
Although the meal programs at the two schools on the Tour are not currently recipients of funds from MAZON Canada, the Tour was an excellent opportunity for the participants to see up close and personal how these kinds of programs work on a day-to-day basis, meet and learn from the volunteers who prepare and serve the meals, as well as meet the students themselves who receive the meals.
The first stop on the Tour was Thorncliffe Park Public School in East York, which has a population of 1300 students across grades Junior Kindergarten to Grade 5. The hot breakfast program at the school serves over 150 students daily, and relies on the support and funding of teachers, parents and a group of local realtors who fund the program and volunteer their time to prepare the meals each day. In addition to the breakfast program, all 1300 students at the school receive a nutritious snack consisting of a dairy product, whole grain and fresh fruit or vegetable.
The next stop on the Tour was secondary school Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute. Unlike the program at Thorncliffe Park, every student in the school receives a home-room meal of a bagel, milk and an apple. More significantly, the meal program at Marc Garneau is organized and run by the students themselves. The Breakfast program is actually one of 90 student-led co-curricular activities that take place at this unique high school, which features a progressive curriculum and one of the most culturally diverse student bodies of any school in Canada.
The meal programs showcased on the Bus Tour are examples of how TFSS is addressing issues of poverty, hunger and poor nutrition and their effect on education. A recent study conducted by the TDSB revealed that 41% of children come to school without having eaten breakfast.
Also on the Tour, TDSB Trustee Howard Goodman shared the results of the Feeding Our Future pilot program. Initiated in 2008, the program provides a healthy morning meal for students at schools in the Jane and Finch area of Toronto. This area, which has a large immigrant population, faces socio-economic challenges such as high rates of poverty and incidents of violence. The findings of the pilot suggest that feeding students a morning meal can significantly enhance student success and well-being. Students who eat morning meals at least three days during a school week achieve higher grades and higher ratings on learning skills compared to students who eat morning meals on fewer days or who never eat them.
It is clear from the results reported by the TDSB that breakfast for students not only improves students’ health but also improves their educational outcomes. MAZON Canada has been a strong supporter of school breakfast programs for a number of years believing that no child should go hungry nor begin their day disadvantaged. The VIP Bus Tour was a great opportunity to see these programs in action.