Nourish Nova Scotia knows that many students go to school in the morning without a proper breakfast, and they’re working to change that.
In line with the science that children need nutrition to properly learn in classrooms, the organization has served more than 6.3 million breakfasts to children across the province. The group has also partnered to create at least 100 food gardens at schools through a Grow, Eat, Learn campaign.
It’s true: students who have a proper breakfast are more likely to see improved attendance, behaviour, and academic performance, while those who go without are more likely to struggle with delayed response times and make mistakes.
Margo Riebe-Butt, executive director of Nourish Nova Scotia, tells CityNews Halifax the pandemic has changed the delivery of many school breakfast programs. The Nova Scotia Health Authority reserves $1.7 million each year for healthy eating programs in schools.
“Our role is really to build capacity for programs to make sure that healthy food is delivered,” Riebe-Butt said, bu the pandemic has made it impossible to hold workshops and volunteer alongside teaching staff at breakfast programs.
Because of that, breakfast programs are relying on packaged foods, making it more difficult to provide healthy meals to students. When the pandemic initially hit, more funding came in from the federal government, some of which went through Nourish Nova Scotia, but Riebe-Butt said those dollars are mostly dried up.
“We're waiting for some additional funds. We've applied for grants from other national sources so we can go back to doing what we did when schools were out last year or in 2020,” Riebe-Butt said, noting the Department of Education has plans in place for families whose children may rely on schools for food security.
In a statement, Early Education and Childhood Department Minister Becky Druhan pointed to the School Healthy Eating Program (SHEP) that provides breakfast and beverage programming in schools.
“To ensure there is continuity of nourishment for students while schools are closed because of COVID, we have worked with the Department of Community Services throughout the pandemic to ensure students and families impacted by school closure can access emergency food through Feed [Nova Scotia].”
“[Families] can contact 211 anytime to access emergency food that is provided by Feed NS. Families automatically become eligible for the Feed NS Food Box Program,” Druhan added.