Student Nutrition Programs

It’s simple: when children are hungry, they can’t focus, and if they can’t focus, they can’t learn. That’s why, in a regular year, approximately 812 school and community-based Student Nutrition Programs (SNPs) provide over 212,000 nutritious meals every school day. Here, students eat a healthy breakfast, lunch, or a snack so that they can focus on learning rather than hunger. One in every four children in Toronto lives in poverty and 40% of all children come to school hungry each day. It can be as high as 68% in our most at-risk communities.

Research shows that when children have enough to eat, they feel energized, concentrate better in class and perform better in school. Also, school attendance increases, not surprising as many students told us that they made it to school because they knew that they could get a nutritious breakfast. Funding comes from parent contributions, individual and corporate donations, the City of Toronto and the Government of Ontario. It is our goal to ensure that no child begins the school day hungry. If you’d like to help, please consider a donation to Student Nutrition Programs.

COVID-19 Response

Since March 2020 we have been helping provide nutrition support to students in a number of ways. When schools closed in March 2020 we focused our efforts into providing and mailing out food cards directly to students. In the last three months of the 2020 school year we mailed out more than 100,000 food cards, representing approximately 3,000,000 meals.

When schools reopened in September 2020, we pivoted again, and helped support in-school Student Nutrition Programs (SNPs), as well as those students learning virtually. Though schools were open, some SNPs were unable to operate, and so, we looked for a way to support them. As well, high school students were only able to attend school for 5 half days every two weeks, and had much less access to their SNPs. In response, we piloted our Nutrition Pantries (NP) program. We created a Central Pantry which we stocked with shelf stable foods that, with the help of TDSB Logistics Services and our grocery partners, we delivered out directly to schools. High schools set up their own Nutrition Pantries where students were able to choose a week’s worth of lunch food to take home – things like tuna, soup, canned fruit and cereal. For the elementary schools that couldn’t open their regular program, nutritious, individually portioned snacks, like granola bars and applesauce, were delivered so that children could access food.

When schools closed again after winter break, we refocussed and began mailing out food cards to students who could no longer access SNPs. As schools once again closed in early 2021, we again directed our efforts to supporting as many students as we could through mailing out food cards. For more information, please click here.

The Impact

”Thank you for allowing our son to participate in the Nutrition Pantry at school. This is a big help for him. My husband is off of work due to health problems, and my job has cut down my hours because of COVID and this kind of help from school is helping us sustain our child’s needs.” – Parent

A middle school student’s family could not afford to feed him breakfast. He was arriving at school tired and frustrated which resulted in anger management issues and he often cut classes. Once this student started to eat breakfast and have snacks at his school’s Student Nutrition Program, his attitude changed dramatically, he paid attention in class, and soon was no longer spending time in detention.

An elementary school student’s single mother fell ill and was unable to provide her children with food each morning. The student and her siblings were arriving at school hungry and without snacks to keep their energy up during the day. With the help of their school’s Student Nutrition Program, the student and her siblings not only received the nutrition they needed to get through the school day but also learned how to prepare healthy food.