Catherine Parsonage, Executive Director and CEO of Toronto Foundation for Student Success [TFSS], talks about the first time she went to a breakfast program and the importance of Student Nutrition Programs.
A one-of-a-kind vision-screening program for Toronto schoolchildren is giving foreign-trained doctors a rare opportunity to improve their skills so they can apply to Canadian medical residency programs.
The community health project, operating out of 150 schools within the Toronto District School Board, not only puts free glasses on kids but has given dozens of international medical graduates the experience they need to succeed.
"Prior to this I was working in a call centre making minimum pay and I was not able to work on my Canadian medical exams," Rajkumar Luke Vijendra Das said while working at an eye screening clinic set up at The Elms Junior Middle School in Etobicoke.
A Toronto councillor is worried budget pressures will force the city to stop expanding a program that helps feed students in need, even as more children than ever are relying on the subsidized meals.
The city's budget committee will debate the funding for its Student Nutrition Program, on which the city spent $9.9 million last year to provide breakfast, lunch and snacks for some 194,000 students, at the committee's upcoming January meeting.
Toronto Public Health recommends spending an extra $2.2 million in 2017 so that more students can be fed through the program, budget notes state. But those same notes say the preliminary budget mentions a boost of $140,000, which would cover only the inflationary cost of food.
Taylor, an eighth grade student at Carlton Village Public School, credits the skills he's learned to the Junior Chefs' Club, one part of the "Beyond 3:30" after-school program run by the Toronto District School Board.
The program began in 2009, and is designed for students between Grades 6 and 8. It's now in 18 schools across the city.
Between 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. every school day, students take part in different activities — ranging from a homework club to cooking and nutrition classes — along with an hour and a half of sports and games.
"Every step and every piece of confidence they build — we see these children blossom," said Catherine Parsonage, executive director of the Toronto Foundation for Student Success. The group works to address issues of hunger and healthcare for school-age children.
Child poverty is a growing problem in the classroom — and it's prompting Canada's largest school board to prepare a staggering 136,000 breakfasts and lunches for students each day.
The Toronto District School Board opened 140 new breakfast initiatives in 2016, bringing its total number of meal programs to 588.
But there are kids who continue to go hungry.
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