No child should go to school hungry.
Since October, this has been the goal of one community around Kingston and Galloway roads in East Scarborough.
Every Monday and Wednesday morning at 7:30 a.m., students of St. Margaret’s public school make their way to the nearby East Scarborough Storefront for the nutritional Breakfast Club.
The Storefront (located in the former 43 division police station, at 4040 Lawrence Ave. E) is a multifaceted community centre, providing healthy breakfast selections and meals on the go.
Yamini Rasiah, a community resource specialist at the Storefront, attends the Breakfast Club on a regular basis.
“We serve anything from wraps, pancakes, eggs, fruit, juice, and milk,” Rasiah says. “There has to be a reason why these kids can’t receive a proper breakfast at home.
“We have around 20 to 30 kids each time, so we’re definitely filling a need in the community.”
Students between the ages of 10 and 14 are already walking to St. Margaret’s on their own, and have no problem dropping in.
Some are accompanied by parents, but regardless, the kitchen inside the Storefront provides a safe atmosphere for the children to meet, socialize, and most importantly, eat.
To register, students must meet certain criteria, and families must sign up for the program through the school’s office. The United Way has already labeled this community as one of 13 Priority Neighbourhoods in Toronto, due to the increasing poverty, and populations of newcomers and youth.
“Healthy food is essential for [these] students’ physical, emotional, social and intellectual development,” says Anne Murray, vice-principal of St. Margaret’s.
Children need nourishment and energy to focus in class, and apply what they learn to their social behaviour.
Not only do the kids receive breakfast prepared according to Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating, they are also taught the importance of using indoor voices, polite language, and table manners by the program’s leaders.
“Everything for a child starts with school,” Rasiah says. “We can provide a healthy start, and prepare them for the day ahead in the classroom.”
To accommodate as many students as possible, the program runs in two shifts, one starting at 7:30 a.m., and a second at 8:00 a.m.
Dip Habib, coordinator of the Volunteer Department at the Storefront is at every meeting, along with some parents and volunteers from the community. All Storefront volunteers attend Public Health safety workshops to ensure safe food preparation.
“We see new faces every week, and it’s proving that the community and schools can work together successfully,” Rasiah says.
The program has been praised by vice-principal Murray, who supports the idea of it being extended and applied to other schools and communities across the city.
“The partnership with the Storefront has been wonderfully successful, and can only continue to grow,” Murray says.