Students at Sherwood Park Elementary School are getting a nutritional head start to school, thanks to an innovative program led by Tsleil-Waututh Nation (TWN) in partnership with Table Matters, Food Lens and Harvest Project. For roughly the past decade, Tsleil-Waututh Nation has offered a breakfast program for Tsleil-Waututh Nation children and has seen first hand the benefits of providing children a healthy breakfast in a communal environment. Since many of the children attend Sherwood Park Elementary, it was a natural fit to extend the program into the school community.
“The leadership and governance of Tsleil-Waututh Nation prioritizes our children, which is why we have committed time, energy and financial support to expanding our breakfast program to include the Sherwood Park Elementary community. We are excited that our children, and their friends and teachers, are benefiting a great deal from these efforts,” said Cheyenne Hood, coordinator of the breakfast program at Tsleil-Waututh Nation.
As part of the new partnership with Sherwood Park Elementary, healthy breakfasts are prepared and delivered to the school for all to enjoy three times a week. These nutritious breakfasts provide the entire school an opportunity to come together as a community to connect over a meal and ready students for learning. The breakfast program also teaches students about the importance of healthy eating and how easy and delicious it is to eat healthy foods. Creating food literacy at an early age sets-up students for lifelong health and success.
In addition to these incredible benefits at the school, the project also supports the broader community in several ways. Youth at the Tsleil-Waututh Nation prepare the meals in the commercial kitchen located at the Nation. This provides them with valuable life-skills and potential career opportunities, as well as the innate satisfaction of supporting their community. Some of the food used for the program has been provided by local grocery stores and is surplus food that would have otherwise been wasted. By recovering this food and transforming it into healthy breakfasts, this program supports a commitment to creating a more sustainable food system by all partners involved. Overall, the project is a win-win in many ways.
“Our existing food system is wasteful” said Rubina Jamal of Food Lens Consulting. “Close to 40% of food produced in Canada is never eaten. A large proportion of surplus food is healthy and nutritious food such as vegetables, fruit and dairy products. One third of students in elementary schools and two out of three students in secondary schools do not eat a nutritious breakfast. While the children sit together they are learning about the food they eat and they are getting a great start to a successful day of learning and socializing. This project uses the innovation of combining purchased and surplus food to demonstrate how we can reduce waste and improve childhood nutrition at the same time.”
While the project is still in its pilot phase, it has been so well received that all partners are hoping to secure funding to continue the program for the foreseeable future.
“This project beautifully illustrate the positive impact that collaborative work around the principles of our Community Food Charter can have,” said Jenn Meilleur, Co-Chair and Coordinator of the North Shore Table Matters Network. “In this case, we have all benefited from the generosity and willingness of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation to share their program successes and their community resources. We hope that The Breakfast Club will inspire more projects that bring people together around healthy food in our North Shore communities!”
Other partners in the Tsleil-Waututh Nation/Sherwood Park Elementary breakfast program include North Vancouver School District, Vancouver Coastal Health, District of North Vancouver, and Metro Vancouver. This project is generously supported by the Vancouver Foundation.
To learn more about this project or to contact us about working together, please contact us at [email protected] For more information about our North Shore Community Food Charter visit www.tablematters.ca/about-table-matters/the-north-shore-community-food-charter/