On April 20th, Brant Food For Thought celebrated 20 years of supporting and facilitating universal student nutrition programs in Brantford and Brant. More than 120 volunteers, donors and friends of the organization gathered at the Best Western for an event featuring special guests and dignitaries, a hot lunch buffet, and formal recognition of many volunteers and donors. Board President, Sherron Birkett, was on hand to welcome all our special guests, dignitaries and volunteers to the celebration.
Our own Town Crier, David McKee, proclaimed the 20th Anniversary celebration underway. He reminded us of Nelson Mandela’s advice “to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead.” And he added, “what better milestone to celebrate than the two full decades of volunteering and giving that has stimulated learning in the young folk of Brantford, the County of Brant and Six Nations of the Grand River by providing them with nutrition of the highest order.”
Honourable MP Phil McColeman offered his congratulations and thanked volunteers for “making sure the children get the nutrition they need. It is caring at the deepest level and there is none more important than this.”
Honourable MPP Dave Levac, and Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, expressed his deep appreciation and thanked the organization and the volunteers for 20 years. “When you help a child, you help the world. We need to raise our children as a village.” In his years as a Principal, Mr. Levac shared how he started a club called, “Breakfast With The Principal”, in order to eliminate the stigma of kids coming to school without breakfast. He urged, “we will continue to advocate for kids and those that need our help.”
City of Brantford Honourable Mayor Chris Friel is a “firm believer in Brant Food For Thought.” He shared how his mother ran and daycare and that young children learned to socialize by being around food. Friel continued that, “social interaction at a breakfast program makes a difference everyday.” When visiting a nutrition program, one little girl left a deep impression. When handed an apple, she said she had never before had an apple and the look of discovery that came across her face when tasting the apple for the first time was wonderful. “I am a champion for food programs, for Brant Food For Thought. It’s not just in poor areas of the city–there are alot of children who don’t get that experience, and children of all demographics should have access to nutritious meals everyday.” The Mayor expressed gratitude to the volunteers, the schools, the school boards. “Thank you for your hard work, dedication and passion.”
County of Brant Honourable Mayor Ron Eddy brought congratulations on behalf of Council, the County and the citizens of Brant, and thanked Brant Food For Thought and the volunteers “for working so hard for 20 years. Good nutrition does contribute to a child’s ability to learn; it’s an important, God-inspired mission .”
Emcee Dave Carrol, shared his own story of how his family got involved in volunteering at their school breakfast program. “As a Dad, I wanted my kids to be the heroes in their own story. I witnessed children drinking 2L bottles of pop for lunch at school. I couldn’t believe it and decided that my family and I needed to get involved.” Carrol approached Mayor Friel and asked what he could do to help in this city, and the Mayor’s response was simply, “Serve breakfast to the kids in our city.” Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, Dave and his family wake up early to prepare and serve fruits and vegetables and other healthy breakfast choices to the children where his own kids attend school. “It’s one of the best decisions we have made as a family.”
The 20th Anniversary Celebration was organized to recognize and show appreciation to our many volunteers and donors who are the backbone of the organization. Our guest speakers ranged from a Grade 1 student to a former Brantford student who now works in the field of public health promotion.
Elle Maulson, Grade 1 student at Grandview School delighted the audience with her view of the student nutrition program at her school. Elle shared that she has been “enjoying the snack program at Grandview School for 3 years now.” What Elle really likes about the program is that “she gets to eat a lot of different foods, and some of her favourite foods are cereal, fruit and yogurt.” Elle really summed up the importance of healthy snack programs at school. “I think our snack program is so important because sometimes kids come to school and don’t have enough food and the snack program makes sure they get to have food so they don’t feel hungry. The food is important for our brains so that we can learn at school and the snack program helps us do that.”
Quin Reid, Grade 6 student at St. Theresa School in Brantford spoke about the breakfast program at his school and how much it means to the students. He continued that “some kids in the community are not able to have breakfast in the morning”, and for various reasons. Quin went on to say that, “some students may have already had breakfast at home and are still hungry when they arrive at school.” Sit-down style breakfast programs provide a great opportunity for students to make new friends they can talk to. Quin brought out this benefit of breakfast programs as he shared that “the breakfast program is a time for students to meet new friends and talk, as they may not have any friends or anyone else to talk to.”
Brantford Collegiate Institute Grade 12 student, Jamie Sero, candidly shared her food experiences as an elementary student in a Florida state school. The highly processed food options caused her to become a picky eater. “The breakfast program at BCI has helped me make healthier food choices and expand on the variety of foods. The morning program also gives me a boost of energy and provides the nutrients that I need to help me study and concentrate in class.”
Growing up in Brant County, Melissa Cummings attended a number of elementary schools and two high schools in the area. She recently relocated to the area with her family. Having a passion for improving the health of the population, Melissa pursued a Masters in Public Health. Student nutrition programs of the early 90’s were highly stigmatizing and have come a long way since then. Cummings praised the work of Brant Food For Thought in this community. “We are so lucky in Brant County to have such well-established student nutrition programs in the schools, as not every municipality offers such a comprehensive program with such caring volunteers and staff.”. As a public health professional, Melissa knows that there is alot of focus on the social determinants of health and on reducing health inequities. “Universal student nutrition programs help to address the social determinants of health as they allow all kids to participate in having equitable access to nutritious foods, such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and white milk, regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds.” As Cummings expounded on the many benefits of student nutrition programs, she thanked the volunteers for making a difference and for the important work they do spending countless hours running the programs in the schools.
Volunteer Development Coordinator, Judy Maidment, turned the spotlight on volunteerism by acknowledging and recognizing the 5, 10, 15 and 20 year volunteers of student nutrition programs. Maidment shared that “volunteers are the heart of our programs, and it was great having our dignitaries on hand to reinforce this belief and reiterate the valuable work that our volunteers do in this community.”
Retired Principal and long time Board Member, Neil Chopp, helped Maidment honour with a special plaque, 5 of the “Original Six” schools who have operated a universal student nutrition program since 1998. The schools were Bellview Public School (amalgamated with Joseph Brant School), Graham Bell-Victoria School, Jean Vanier Catholic Elementary (formerly Our Lady of Fatima), King George School and Princess Elizabeth School.
Glenn Gaudet, of Gaudet Group Wealth Management, Investors Group, Board Member and long time supporter of Brant Food For Thought, assisted Program Director, Gisèle Budgell in recognizing special donors who have contributed significantly and/or consistently over the past 20 years. All donors were recognized although some were unable to join us for the event. The recipients were as follows:
- 6 years – Stephen Smith & Dorothy Woltz Foundation
- 6 years – Paul Davis Brantford
- 9 years – Charity of Hope Brantford
- 11 years – Kuriyama Canada & Kuri Tec Corporation
- 12 years – Rev. Ted Black and the Model Railroad Layout Tour
- 13 years – Mike Mears of West Brant Window World
- 13 years – Your Neighbourhood Credit Union
- 13 years – Paris Optimist Club
- 14 years – Dr. Sandy Kunej of Family Care Chiropractic
- 15 years – Women of Greenbrier Presbyterian Church
- 16 years – Glenn Gaudet of Investors Group
- 18 years – Millards, Chartered Professional Accountants
A big THANK YOU to all the volunteers and donors who have supported and sustained Brant Food For Thought for 20 years. Together, we continue to invest in our children today so they can enjoy a healthy and vibrant future.