In September 2012, at our Parent Council meeting at Kimberley Junior Public school, we learned that we were going to lose our snack program and its funding. Running a snack program is an enormous, volunteer position. Tessa Abdul, the person (saint) that had run the program from Beaches Alternative School, the year before, was not able to do it again. Without a person or team to run the program we would have to give our funding back and our kids would not have a provided snack. We have a mixed demographic school and some kids don’t have a fresh, healthy snack for school. Furthermore, lot of kids forget or misplace their snacks and lunches. After the first Parent Council meeting, I really felt strongly about helping to offer our kids a healthy snack – before you knew it I was running the Nutrition Committee.
Our school had a new principal, Lilian Hanson, who was very busy, given the teacher’s contract situation. She couldn’t figure out how we would run a snack program given the initial lack of interest. A few fantastic parents came forward and volunteered to help figure it out: Marike Emery, Hillary Stephenson, Angela Skelkhorn, and Lori Stilwell to begin with. After a meeting or two we decided to try a new idea. Our principal had been in a school that had offered a fruit bowl in the office – the availability of food created a warm environment and nourished those who forgot their snack or missed a meal. In the past year, the snack (two/three food groups) were served to the kids in their classroom at the beginning of recess.
We wanted to try a new idea. I researched how several schools and daycares offered their snack programs. I also researched all the healthy snack services. What I learned was that the snack services were too expensive per student for our two combined junior schools (260 students without the kindergarden). The best solutions in the schools that I found were local solutions: businesses providing food and services for wholesale prices. I called a local store owner, Karen at Courage Foods, and she said she would help us by providing us beautiful produce for wholesale prices. A local coffee-shop owner, James at Grinder, said we could chop our produce at his cafe. Now, a few parents would have to take the food safety course.
In November, I purchased 130 apples from Courage Foods, washed the apples and put them in a nice container on my son’s wagon. At recess, my son and I took the wagon around the schoolyard and the kids helped themselves. The apples were gone in 5 minutes. I needed more. I did the same for the next four weeks. I learned more each time. The amount of fruit increased to 260 pieces and a little extra for our fruit bowl in the office. The kids were so excited to serve themselves apples, pears, bananas, and clementines and they were great at putting the peels in the bin. One of the children told me they had never eaten a pear before, and that just told me that we were doing the right thing!
The Nutrition team got together again and we decided we couldn’t take the money from the Toronto Foundation for Student Success (TFSS) because we didn’t want to offer the snack in the way that was required for the funding. We wanted a solution that would meet our following criteria:
- volunteer run, but not a burden on one person
- locally sourced, organic (if possible) food
- healthly, whole food – primarily fruit and veggies
- kids serve themselves
- available to all kids
- kids can help serve each other (wagon)
- little or no garbage (we are an ECO school)
- ability to compost
- kids eat when they
- kids have the choice of fruit/veggies offered
- kids don’t miss their recess time to have snack
As it turns out, when we contacted TFSS, we were able to keep our funding because we now had a nutrition team, financial reporting and a unique solution for our school (not including kindergarden). In January, we have begun to offer our snack three mornings a week. We are serving fruit and vegetables. Several more parent volunteers have become involved in cleaning, preparing and serving the snack during three morning recesses a week. It is exciting to see parents participating to nourish their children and help others.
We are all excited about providing snacks that nourish our kids. The parents are enjoying seeing the kids at recess and seeing how excited they are about the fresh snacks. Ultimately, both the program and volunteering are building community and a feel-good atmosphere in the school.