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St. Mary school breakfast 'helps kids live free from hunger'

Goal is to to meet the growing need in the community by raising awareness and funds to support youth and children with a big breakfast for the entire school community to enjoy

Bins of healthy snacks are placed in classrooms at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Elora every morning, with students invited to help themselves – something seen as helping start the day on a positive note.

On Monday morning, staff and students came together for the Help Kids Live Free From Hunger Campaign Breakfast with members from the community in support of the Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington.

The foundation supports the Food & Friends Program at St. Mary School that brings ‘healthy food to hungry minds’, every day.

The goal is to to meet the growing need in the community by raising awareness and funds to support youth and children with a big breakfast for the entire school community to enjoy.

The Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington supports breakfast, morning meal, snack and lunch programs offered throughout Dufferin, Wellington County and Guelph agencies and schools to provide an atmosphere of social inclusion for students who may otherwise feel marginalized.

“We know of the needs in our community and also with affordability and accessibility of food. This is one of the best ways we can make sure food is going to local youth and children,” said Emma Rogers, CEO of Children's Foundation of Guelph and Wellington.

“We have fed over 20,000 children from September up until now, and one million meals have been served."

Rogers says opportunities can create possibilities.

“This is an opportunity to nourish our children. When they are well fed at school, they will pay attention and possibilities will happen,” Rogers said

“This is such a great way to support our children, with food and love."

Justin DiLoreto, principal at St Mary Catholic School, says he is proud of his school community and the efforts being made to make sure students have access to food everyday.

“This school has such a vibrant community. During my time here, we have always had a snack bin program that helps our students,” DiLoreto said.  

“I’m happy that we can offer this every day. It’s not a breakfast program, but it is a way to supplement some of our students. One Grade 8 student said that the cookies in the bins are the 'light of his life.'"

Particularly for families who might experience food scarcity at home, DiLoreto says a snack at school can give students an added boost.

“It’s been really effective and has provided our students with a bit of a jump,” he said.

Grade 8 student Leanne Vervoort volunteers for the Food & Friends Program by helping fill and refill snack bins daily.

“I am so proud that this school supports students in not being hungry. Students need food for energy so they can focus during school. This is why we run this program everyday,” Vervoort said.

“The main goal of this program is the elimination of any barriers to education to ensure all students are nourished during the day to achieve success. Every student needs fuel to feed their minds and bodies."

Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington officials says there has been an increase in need since the pandemic began. A healthy Food & Friends meal can cost an average of $3.40 compared to $1.85 a year ago. 

“With food costs continuing to rise, it might be more difficult for families to put food on the table and in this case, in their lunches,” Vervoot said.

“The program has helped many students at our school, and I’m so happy that I am there to help.”

For more information about Food & Friends, visit here.