Feature

Beyond the Breakfast Program: Addressing the Impact of Poverty in Our Schools

Shernett Martin

has been held, schools are putting strategies in place that directly serve the needs of their students. In the Upper Grand District School Board, some schools in Guelph have formed an important partner- ship with West Willow Woods Neighbourhood Group, to provide an after-school program, a snack program, a sports and recreation program and, most importantly, a safe, nurturing environment where students are eager to return each day. Another success story is a school that adopted an “S.O.S” (Save Our Students) philosophy: each teacher voluntarily agreed to mentor 10 to 12 students in their school for the year. Students were able to access their mentors for support, advice, and encouragement.

These programs suited these particular schools. They may not be the right fit for all schools, but the point is that they are finding solutions to combat the challenges facing low-income students at their schools.

The “no child left behind” mantra does not include only literacy and numeracy. Schools across the province are answering the call to action and are working hard to close the achievement gap by acknowledging that they have students who face poverty, providing suitable programs, building supports in the community and with parents, and critically examining what needs to change in order to meet the needs of all students.

The Eastern Ontario Child Poverty Resource

recommends schools develop a plan of  action to address child poverty.3 Some of their recommendations include:

  • recognizing that poverty is an issue in every school
  • creating a plan to address the impact of  poverty in your school
  • considering how school-related fees affect low-income families and seeking solutions to ease the burden on them
  • putting in place supports and programs that help low-income children get the most out of their educational experience
  • being sensitive to different times of the year that may be more stressful for low-income children and families
  • developing working relationships with local service agencies that address issues affecting low-income families.

As the workshop continues to make its way across  the  province,  meeting  with  educators who want to make an impact on how they program for students from low-income families, the lively discussions will continue. It is my hope that along with the discussions we will work toward ensuring that  our  schools and  classrooms are places  where our most vulnerable students will hear the message that “Yes, we see you. You are not invisible here.”

For further information about  Beyond the Breakfast  Program workshops, contact  Jim  Giles  at provincial office:  jgiles@etfo.org.

Recent Statistics on Poverty in Canada*

In  1989,  the  House  of  Commons resolved to end child poverty by the year 2000 . But 18 years later the

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