Student Nutrition Programs: Meeting a Need for Hungry Children
According to the Breakfast Club of Canada, 1 in 5 children arrive to school hungry due to a lack of access to nutritious food (2016). Research shows that children who are hungry during the day do not perform as well academically compared to their peers (White, Hill, Kemp, MacRae, & Young, 2012). Student nutrition programs (SNPs) provide nutritious food to students through breakfast, lunch, and snack programs to support healthy development and learning. Offered throughout Ontario, SNPs aim to provide food to students in a supportive and non-judgemental environment. In this study, we evaluated SNPs in four schools offered by Food & Friends in Wellington, Dufferin, and Guelph to understand the benefits and challenges of the program from the perspectives of students, principals, and program coordinators. 258 students in grades 6, 7, and 8 completed online surveys and 9 principals and program coordinators were interviewed. Our results show that the SNPs were viewed as beneficial to all students by providing healthy food, opportunities for student leadership, and a space for socializing. Concurrently, principals and program coordinators mentioned difficulties in running the programs which included funding cuts, space/storage for large amounts of food, and volunteer recruitment. Results from this study suggest that many of the benefits and challenges were common across the four schools.