New Brunswick

Sussex schools to receive nearly $88K donation to fight student hunger

Sussex Regional High School and Sussex Middle School will receive nearly $88,000 from the Brewer Foundation on Tuesday to help fight student hunger.

Brewer Foundation seeks to help students be well-nourished and ready to learn

With money from the Brewer Foundation, Sussex Regional High School and Sussex Middle School plan to expand their student hunger programs to provide breakfast and lunch daily, as well as a weekend backpack program. (Hans Pennink/Associated Press)

Sussex Regional High School and Sussex Middle School will receive nearly $88,000 from the Brewer Foundation on Tuesday to help fight student hunger.

The New Brunswick Health Council estimates that one in five children in the province lives in poverty, but Stacey Stairs, the culinary tech teacher at the high school, believes the town's numbers are "much higher."

"We have a lot of low-income jobs, and so the people who are lucky enough to have jobs … it's not enough because rent is one thing, in the winter power bills go up, and people just have to make hard choices," she said.

Many students arrive at school hungry and with no lunch or money to buy lunch, which can affect their learning, said Stairs.

Some may be grouchy, and others might not be able to lift their heads off their desks.

"It totally has an impact on how they function, for sure."

Research indicates that feeding children at school improves student behaviour and attitude, reduces absenteeism, improves the ability to stay on task and increases academic achievement.

At least 135 of Sussex Regional High School's 675 students live in poverty, according to the New Brunswick Health Council. (Neville Crabbe/CBC)

The schools have tried a number of initiatives over the years, said Stairs. Last year, they offered breakfast club three days a week, free meals six times all year and school-wide fresh fruit three times during the school year.

Until now, the schools have had to raise money and apply for grants every year, which makes it difficult to plan, she said. "Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don't."

The Brewer Foundation's vision is that every school-aged child in New Brunswick attend school well-nourished and ready to learn.

With the donation from the Fredericton-based foundation, Stairs said it feels like "winning the lottery because it just, it alleviates that stress of the money, you know, 'How are we going to pay for it?'"

Now, "we are able to try all the ideas we have quietly dreamed over the past few years."

Sussex Middle School and the local high school have previously had to apply for grants every year for the student hunger programs. Not knowing if or where funding was coming from made it difficult to plan for the future. ((CBC))

The schools plan to expand their student hunger program to provide breakfast and lunch daily, as well as a weekend backpack program.

The Brewer Foundation will present a cheque for $87,810 at Sussex Regional High School on Tuesday at 11:45 a.m.

"We feel fortunate to work and learn from so many incredible people who share the vision of feeding our province's hungry students, and who are on the front lines witnessing this epidemic," Sandy Kitchen-Brewer said in a statement.

"We draw strength and determination from people like Stacey who witness student hunger first hand and who gather their community around them to take care of each other. If we work together and take care of each other, we can fix this."

The Brewer Foundation has also supported food security initiatives in Fredericton, Oromocto, Sackville and Salisbury, Port Elgin, Acadian Peninsula and Moncton.

With files from Information Morning Saint John

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