The gift that keeps on feeding

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The Noelle’s Gift Foundation recently donated in excess of $10,600 to the local student nutrition program. Seated are Elaine Lewis, co-ordinator for the Chatham-Kent Student Nutrition Program, and Robert Bondy, a student and volunteer in Victor Lauriston’s school nutrition program. Back row, from left, volunteers Rick Bondy and Edna Mason, educational assistant Katie Burchiel, Noelle’s Gift representative Jackie Major-Daamen, vice-principal Scott Basik, and principal Erin Van De Wiele.
The Noelle’s Gift Foundation recently donated in excess of $10,600 to the local student nutrition program. Seated are Elaine Lewis, co-ordinator for the Chatham-Kent Student Nutrition Program, and Robert Bondy, a student and volunteer in Victor Lauriston’s school nutrition program. Back row, from left, volunteers Rick Bondy and Edna Mason, educational assistant Katie Burchiel, Noelle’s Gift representative Jackie Major-Daamen, vice-principal Scott Basik, and principal Erin Van De Wiele.

The Noelle’s Gift Foundation donated more than $10,600 recently to the Chatham-Kent Student Nutrition Program, helping to ensure local students have full bellies and alert minds in the classroom.

“This generous donation by Noelle’s Gift will greatly assist the Chatham-Kent Student Nutrition Program in its mandate to provide nutrition support, so that children are well-nourished and ready to learn,” program co-ordinator Elaine Lewis said.

Erin Van De Wiele, principal at Victor Lauriston School in Chatham, said their breakfast/nutrition program is quite busy, with participating students enjoying the healthy food choices provided. She realizes it’s not always easy for parents to get their kids to eat fruits and vegetables, and simply transporting them from the store to the home, or for the kids, from the home to school, can be difficult

“One of the biggest stumbling blocks is that healthy foods are heavy, so if you don’t have a car it’s hard,” she said.

The student nutrition program puts those fruits and veggies right in the schools, and at times right in the classrooms.

At Victor Lauriston, while the school hosts its before-school breakfast program, it also puts out plates of healthy food options in a number of classrooms.

At the school, more than two-thirds of the student body is signed up for the breakfast program, although most don’t use it daily. But on any given day, there are more than 30 kids grabbing a bite before school, and still others who take food into the classroom.

Vice-principal Scott Basik describes them as “grab-n-goes” – kids who come by bus or arrive too late to take part in the breakfast program that runs 30 minutes prior to the first bell.

Lewis said providing such healthy food choices could also have a lasting impact.

Giving children healthy food options and encouraging healthy eating today sets them up for the future.

“This is for their long-term health. We hope they will teach their children to eat healthy one day too,” she said.

Jackie Major-Daamen, a member of the Noelle’s Gift Foundation’s board, said the foundation is a big supporter of school nutrition programs, and for a good reason.

“It’s good to know these kids have something to eat; that they have an option,” she said.

Lewis said the donations are what allow the nutrition program to operate.

“We couldn’t run the program without community donations coming in. We’re still trying to operate on about $1 per child per day. The ministry (of education) provides 13 cents (per child, per day),” she said.

Major-Daamen said the folks at the foundation are proud of what they do.

“When we raise money, we know we are making a difference,” she said.

While student nutrition programs are a prime area of giving for the foundation, they have also donated to replace a student’s wheelchair, to pay for dental work, and to provide winter clothing.

And it’s a pretty simple process, she added. If a teacher recognizes a need, he or she goes to her principal. That person has the discretionary ability to authorize purchases up to $200. Anything beyond that goes to a committee for approval.

Major-Daamen said the turnaround time is incredibly fast, as decisions made by the four-principal committee are done in under an hour.

The foundation has raised more than $650,000, Major-Daamen said, and has so far given about $330,000 back into the community.

As for the C-K Student Nutrition program, it’s been around since 1998, and has grown to 50 schools, from 13. More than 6,500 students participate and are served over 900,000 meals, thanks to school staff and about 500 volunteers.

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