Contributed by Celina Stoyles, Executive Director, Kids Eat Smart Foundation NL
Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador is a registered charity operating 254 Kids Eat Smart (KES) Clubs in over 90 per cent of schools in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Most KES Clubs serve breakfast. We operate 20 KES Clubs in community centres called Homework Havens that provide after school help with homework, and we provide a healthy snack, so children can concentrate on their homework.
School year 2017-18 has been a very busy year for Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador. Every school day we serve over 29,000 meals to school age children in our Province. We saw a significant increase in the number of new KES Club startups this year compared to other years. We started twelve new KES Clubs in schools and community centres during the school year.
At an average cost of $1 per meal, this can quickly add up. How does such a small organization, with a total of six full time employees, three seasonal employees and a small Board of Directors, tackle such a monumental task? We live in a province that is rooted in helping each other. We rely on an army of over 6,100 volunteers who run our KES Clubs daily. We provide support to our KES Clubs in terms of menu selection, food safety training, volunteer recruitment, stewardship and financial support but it is truly the parents, grandparents, school community and community leaders who run the 254 KES Clubs.
Our fundraising initiatives are ongoing throughout the year. We receive $1.1 million in Government funding annually; Foundation fundraising efforts raise approximately $800,000 and our schools raise approximately $1.4 million in money and food from their local communities. We are so grateful to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador for making a multi-year funding commitment to Kids Eat Smart Foundation NL. This allows Kids Eat Smart Foundation the stability to plan and make multi-year funding commitments with other groups and organizations.
Kids Eat Smart Clubs are key in maintaining the health and overall well-being of our children. There is so much research regarding the benefits of eating a healthy breakfast and how it helps with a child’s development physically and intellectually. KES Clubs are universal in that every child is welcome to come to breakfast regardless of socio-economic status. There are many reasons why children come to breakfast. In our Province the reality is some children have very long bus rides, some children come from households where mornings are very busy, some children rely on socializing with friends during breakfast, it’s a place to belong, and some children live in food insecure homes or in poverty where having breakfast is not an option.
We receive so many touching stories and comments from Principals and Teachers who continue to tell us how important KES Clubs are to the children who attend their schools.
“Our breakfast program has been a very beneficial program at our school. We feel it's a great way for our students to start their day. The benefits of a healthy breakfast and positive social environment is very important to the overall atmosphere of our school. We are very pleased with our program.”
Pearce Jr. High, Burin Bay Arm, Principal Greg Farrell
“Children come to the school and know that breakfast will be available to them on those days served. This is especially prevalent to those students who may not have the opportunity to have breakfast at home due to availability or other issues. By having a nutritious breakfast as an option, this provides some students with the only opportunity to avail of a breakfast. Those students who eat breakfast are more alert and are able to focus and be attentive to their studies.”
Labrador Straits Academy, L’Anse au Loup, Principal Colleen O’Brien
“Students get to converse with their peers early in the morning. They are happier and feel better. Just an overall, all-round positive educational service.”
Cloud River Academy, Roddickton, Principal Hollis Cull
The adage “it takes a village to raise a child” is so true and in our case our village is our entire Province. We are so appreciative of the thousands of dedicated volunteers who prepare and serve breakfast every school day, to our Government for providing a secure multi-year funding source and to the many corporations, businesses, community groups, and individuals who continue to invest in the children of our Province. Together we are making a difference in the lives of our children every day.