Kitchener-Waterloo

Forest Hill Public School exchanges breakfast program for in-school healthy snacks

Forest Hill Public School in Kitchener has expanded its homegrown healthy snack program to five days a week and teachers and staff are seeing positive results in students.

Fruit, crackers, cheese offered to all students during school hours

Every day a tote containing fruit or vegetables, crackers, and protein, like cheese or yogurt, is delivered to classrooms. Teachers distribute food as they see fit, but students know it's there if they get hungry. (Liz Kloepper)
Forest Hill Public School in Kitchener has expanded its homegrown healthy snack program to five days a week and teachers and staff are seeing positive results in students. 

The average family income for kids at that school is $32,000 and 40 per cent of students reported they didn't have enough food for lunch in a survey conducted by the school in 2013. 

As of this fall, all 550 students have access to fruit or vegetables, crackers and protein, like cheese or yogurt, delivered in totes to every classroom, every day. 

Some teachers put the food in a communal bin in the middle of the room, others pass food out when they see a drop in energy.

"Everybody gets hungry. Even children who have lots of food in their lunch, they still get hungry and they can go and get a snack from the bin. That helps everybody, it evens the playing field out," kindergarten teacher Anne Campbell said.

The power of protein

"Before we started serving protein every day, I was teaching a little guy and he would lie down on the carpet for like 20 or 40 minutes at a time. He would just lie there," Campbell said.

She said she tried everything to encourage him to build with trains and play with the other kids.

"He'd come for a little while and then he'd lie down again," Campbell explained. 

"One day I asked if he was hungry, and offered a cheese string ... and he changed. So whenever he laid down, we would give him a piece of cheese, and he would start to engage with the other kids." 
Teacher Anne Campbell and principal peter Berndt pictured at Forest Hill's gala fundraiser in 2015, which raised $10,000 for the school's healthy snack program. (Waterloo Region District School Board)

Replacing breakfast with healthy snacks

The snack program started once a week in 2014; it's since replaced the early morning breakfast program that was held at Calvin Presbetyrian Church across the street. 

Campbell said the healthy snack initiative improves upon the breakfast program model: It's offered to all students at the same time during school hours, no one feels alienated and it's non-denominational. 

"There were a lot of barriers with that program, for families," Campbell said.

"You had to be there before school started. And what we discovered was the kids that needed food the most came 10 or 20 minutes after school started, saying things like, 'we just got out of bed.'"

It costs $40,000 a year to run the healthy snack program. One third of that is paid for by local charity Nutrition for Learning and the rest is donated by local churches, service groups – like Kitchener Rotary – and some money is raised at a fundraising gala.

The program is operated entirely by school teachers – parents aren't expected to volunteer or donate to the cause, Campbell said. 

"Because if parents could afford [to pitch in], they could afford food for the kids for lunch, and we wouldn't need to have it in the first place," she said.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said the church that had offered the breakfast program was Knox Presbyterian Church. In fact it was Calvin Presbyterian Church.
    Nov 23, 2016 10:45 AM ET

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