Monday, January 30, 2017

Help Fill Empty Bellies and Support Student Health and Learning in Your Community #Toonies4Tummies


I think we all know by now the importance of good nutrition in maintaining concentration and effective student learning. Studies have clearly shown that a full belly is critical for kids to learn at their best and perform well in school. And of course that makes sense - we need to fulfill our basic physical needs before we can focus on the higher functions. 

There are many reasons a child or teen may be missing out on a healthy start to their day. For some, it's an economic issue, and there's just not any food at home to be eaten. For others, mornings may be rushed and they may not have time to sit down for a balanced meal. Or maybe they need to be awake and moving for some time before they can eat (like me). For all of these kids, and whether they need it every day or just once in a while, having a student nutrition program in their school makes a huge difference in their academic success. 

#Toonies4Tummies

The Grocery Foundation has been helping to fund these programs across Ontario since 1979. A key component of their fundraising each year is the Toonies for Tummies program, which has expanded this year to include the Western provinces as well. Through this program, they partner with food brands and retail sponsors to bring awareness to the need for breakfast and snack programs in schools, and encourage consumers to donate $2 (a toonie) at the till to support local efforts. 

Because the administration and promotions costs for Toonies for Tummies are covered by sponsors, The Grocery Foundation is able to ensure that 100% of proceeds collected through this campaign go directly to fund student nutrition programs on the ground. What's more, all monies stay in the local area where they are donated. The Foundation works with the Ontario Student Nutrition Program Network and the Breakfast Club of Canada to ensure the funds get to the local programs that need them.

click to enlarge

The 2017 program will run from February 9-23, with a goal to raise $850,000 in-store and online. More than 500 stores are participating, including Metro, Food Basics, Longo's, plus over 30 independent grocers in Ontario, and Save-On-Foods in Western Canada. Visit the website TooniesForTummmies.ca to learn more, donate, or track the impact of your donation online. Look in-store for special signage highlighting sponsor products, and I hope you can say "Yes!" when the cashier asks if you'd like to make a donation. Metro, Food Basics, Longo's and Save-On-Foods will have coupons for you to say thanks. Every Toonie counts!!



Agents of Change

Student engagement is a key focus for the Toonies for Tummies campaign. With this in mind, last year the program reached out and engaged a number of high school students to act as "Agents of Change" and help spread awareness. That aspect of the program continues this year, and I was able to meet with a local Scarborough student and witness a small piece of her work to support Toonies for Tummies in her school community.
Agent of Change, Cedonna Ho, poses with Michelle Scott, Executive Director, The Grocery Foundation
Cedonna Ho is a grade 11 student at Norman Bethune Collegiate Institute in Scarborough, ON. She is one of the leaders of her school's Student Nutrition Programs club, and works with 30 dedicated student members, along with the Principal, Vice Principals and school administrative staff to run a daily breakfast program, free to all students. Each morning from 8:00-8:30, 2 student members set up a table in the lobby and serve a variety of nutritious items, including oatmeal, fruit, breakfast bars, cereal, white and chocolate milk, and English muffins with cheese. An afternoon shift of students comes after school to clean up, take inventory and prepare food for the next day. Admin staff look after all the ordering. They've got a great system going! Cedonna told me they serve at least 20 students every day, and everyone is very enthusiastic about the program.

Funding for this breakfast program comes from organisations such as The Grocery Foundation. In fact, Cedonna pointed out that initially they were only able to serve fruit and granola bars from a school trolley. With grants from The Grocery Foundation they have been able to purchase appliances, including a fridge, a toaster, and a proper table. Students are encouraged to make a donation of 25 cents per item they enjoy each morning, and many do drop in their quarters. But, importantly, this is not mandatory, making the program accessible to all. A lot of teens don't eat breakfast at home because they don't have (or make) the time. Norman Bethune's breakfast program caters to that population as well as anyone who may be lacking access to healthy food at home.

Volunteers support student nutrition with a fundraiser at Norman Bethune CI

As part of her role as an Agent of Change, Cedonna organised a recent fundraiser at her school, along with other members of the Student Nutrition Programs club. They sold healthy snacks, Toonies for Tummies T-shirts, and school mugs over the lunch break. They also sold tickets for a movie screening that afternoon, "Now You See Me." All proceeds from the fundraiser went directly to the Toonies program. And the fundraiser provided another opportunity to raise awareness among their school mates about the importance of a healthy diet and school nutrition programs.

Michelle, Rachel, and Cedonna

Twitter Party

We are working to spread the word about the importance of student nutrition programs as well, and raising awareness of the need for more of them.  You can learn more, and help raise awareness by joining us on Twitter on February 1, at 9pm Eastern time. We'll be chatting on the hashtag #Toonies4Tummies, along with out hosts @ShashersLife, @GroceryFndtn, and @TheTracyMoore. There'll be prizes as well. We have six $100 grocery gift cards, 2 each from our three grocery sponsors - Longo's & Metro (+ Food Basics) in Ontario, and Save-On-Foods in the West.


For all the details and to RSVP, please visit -bit.ly/2j0PC8O

Hope to see you there!


Disclosure: This post is brought to you by The Grocery Foundation. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.

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