Thanks to a community donation, hundreds of children in Tillsonburg will continue to enjoy a healthy and nutritious breakfast at local schools this year.
The Tillsonburg Kiwanis Club recently received a $1,000 donation, raised through fundraising activities, from the UCW (United Church Women) at Delmer United Church, made in honour of Norm Smith. The club in turn, chose to use the money to help out the breakfast program in local schools.
“Norm is a very active member with the Kiwanis Club and we discussed it as a group and thought we’re going to give it back to the community,” said Mike Dean, president of the Tillsonburg Kiwanis Club. “We figured we’d go with the breakfast program at the schools - it helps children, which is our priority one and we think it’s a good cause.”
Lynda Metcalfe, coordinator for the Oxford County Nutrition Partnership, an organization affiliated with Oxford County Public Health, said that donations like the one from the Tillsonburg Kiwanis Club are needed to help maintain important programs like the breakfast program at Tillsonburg and area schools.
“We help schools set up programs and any fundraising money that comes through the partnership, 100 percent of it is passed onto the schools because they do not receive enough money to run their program,” said Metcalfe. “They do get a grant from the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, only to the tune of 13 cents per child, per day which wouldn’t even buy a small amount for a child, so we’re always looking to the community.
“Without the community support, we couldn’t really run these programs.”
Metcalfe noted the important and often necessary role the breakfast program plays for many students in Tillsonburg and throughout Oxford County today.
“There’s all sorts of studies that have proven the link - if you feed the stomach, you do feed the brain. I think the goal of everyone, including the partnership is to make sure every child in Oxford County attends school well fed and ready to learn,” she added. “Every school, despite the fact that we live in one of the riches nations in the world, has hungry children.”
In Tillsonburg all seven schools both separate and public, elementary and secondary, use a breakfast program.
“Our high schools also have a program – theirs is a breakfast program whereas in the elementary schools it is a mid-morning program because of busing they don’t have enough time,” explained Metcalfe.
The breakfast programs at local elementary and high schools provide students with a healthy start to the day and offers a variety of nutritional choices that may not be found in snacks and meals that many children eat today.
“Our lunches and breakfasts can be pre-packaged food that’s high in fat, high in sugar and our kids are suffering from being overweight, obesity, along with related diseases such as heart disease and cancers – so we need to change the eating habits, we need to show kids what is healthy food,” said Metcalfe.
“Our breakfast programs must meet nutrition guidelines as laid out by the dieticians of Ontario and we have workshops that all volunteers attend to go over nutrition guidelines.”
Breakfast programs, like the ones offered at schools across Oxford County, can have a significant impact in the life of a child.
“It raises the morale in the school, they see that adults care about them. We feel every child has the right to access food,” she added. “This is an opportunity for all schools to participate – there’s over 1800 students in Tillsonburg alone that participate in this program,” said Metcalfe.
“It’s a great benefit to the community.”