The James Cardinal McGuigan Breakfast Club dished out a helping of gratitude to the Toronto Budget Advisory Committee Wednesday afternoon.
Three students and a youth worker from the North Toronto high school made the trek to City Hall in response to the newly minted budget that allocated increased funding to breakfast programs in schools across the city.
“I thank the councillors for what they have done for us because if they weren’t there, there would be nothing,” one grade 12 student said. “And please contribute more.”
Laughter rose from the gallery and from committee Vice-Chair Paul Ainslie as the students made their presentation. After a long day of public disputes and debate over the allocation of various funds in the 2009 budget, the sentiments of the McGuigan breakfast club lightened the mood in the council chamber.
The grade 12 student, fellow students Francis Acheampong and Francois Jaume-Carbone, as well as school youth worker and breakfast club founder Heidi Lee, thanked city council because of the positive difference the program makes for students who come to school on an empty stomach.
“The students are more alert in class, there’s a decrease in inappropriate behaviour, and the kids come out for the program,” Lee said.
“Also, it saves time and money, because sometimes you leave home early and because of breakfast, it gets you to class,” Acheampong added.
The McGuigan breakfast club serves hot, healthy breakfasts to students for only 50 cents a day. The program also offers incentives to those who help keep it running. Students receive valuable volunteer hours, 40 of which they need to graduate, and certificates of recognition often find their way onto students’ resumes.
Councillor Ainslie seconded the benefits of the breakfast club, noting his appreciation for the McGuigan club’s sentiments.
“It’s good to have students come in like that and actually thank us,” Ainslie said, “and say, ‘I haven’t gone to school hungry’ or ‘I’m more productive in school’.”
As well, both the McGuigan club and Ainslie remarked on the importance of the program in a time of financial downturn.
“I encourage students who say, ‘I don’t have the money,'” Lee said. “I say, ‘I don’t care. Just come and eat breakfast.'”
After expressing their gratitude to the council, the McGuigan breakfast club concluded with an offer that they hope city council can’t refuse.
“It would be an honour,” Jaume-Carbone said, “to one day wake up and see (you) there, eating our breakfast.”
Filed by Mike Crisolago