Posted by: locaphile | May 15, 2012

Linking Nutritious Breakfasts with School Success

This coming Saturday, May 19th will be Literacy Day at the Haney Farmers Market.  The Fraser Valley Regional Library and the Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Katzie Community Literacy Committee will be there providing activities and information.  By reservation only, Big Feast is offering a Farm-to-Fork 3 Course Dinner for $55 on May 18th and 19th that will donate money to the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation and the Interactive Hot Lunch Program at the Environmental School Project in School District 42 (Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows).

Making the link between nutrition and literacy is all over the news these days.  More support for the Sun’s Adopt a School Fund made the front page of the Vancouver Sun this morning:  “From Hardship to Helping Hand,” 15 May 2012.  The Adopt-a-School campaign gathers support from school districts, parks boards, labour councils, individuals and corporations to provide school breakfast programs to students in needy schools.  Long-running programs argue that children need to be well fed in order to learn well.  Last week CBC Radio ran a piece that backed this argument with two years’ worth of research, “Toronto study links breakfast with school success”:

A study released Friday by the Toronto District School Board, shows that giving children a nutritious breakfast each morning has a direct effect on their academic performance.

The two-year study, Feeding Our Future, followed 6,000 Toronto students. It found those who were fed properly had improved marks and better behaviour.

“This is a groundbreaking piece of research,” said Catherine Parsonage, co-chair of the Canadian Child and Youth Nutrition Program Network.

Parsonage is also the executive director of the Toronto Foundation for Student Success, the group which along with the TDSB studied how nutrition affects student behaviour and academic success.

“In our elementary schools [Education Quality and Accountability Office] tests are showing huge improvements in reading, mathematics and particularly science,” said Parsonage.

Grade 7 and 8 students who ate a healthy breakfast at school “achieved or exceeded provincial reading standards by a rate 10 per cent higher than those who did not have breakfast,” the school board said in a news release.

Edward White Chacon is one of the students who has benefited from the study.

“When I get up I have to fix my hair, pick out my outfit, sometimes I do homework so there’s no time [for breakfast],” he said.

For the past two years he’s been a big fan of the food program at Toronto’s Emery Collegiate. He says it helps him concentrate, keeps him from getting angry and it’s pumped up his marks.

“I’ve been getting in the 60s, high 60s, sometimes low 60s. But now I have a 79,” he said.

According to the study, 78 per cent of students who ate breakfast on most days were on-track for graduation compared to 61 per cent of students who ate breakfast only on a few days or not at all.

The study authors say it’s the first of its kind in Canada to provide proof that when students are hungry, it’s hard to learn.

“This is tremendous work that highlights the importance of working with our provincial and municipal partners so that all students can succeed. We will do all we can to continue nutrition programs wherever it is needed,” said TSB chair Chris Bolton in a statement released to the media.

Currently there is a patchwork of school food programs across the country. But armed with the new data lobby groups say they’ll now push for a national strategy to provide free, healthy food to all Canadian students.

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