Sandowne – Building Community & Future Leaders
Within minutes of meeting Joanna Albers the student nutrition program coordinator and Core French teacher at Sandowne Public school you quickly realize you are with someone who has passion for her school, her students and the power of the Nutrition for Learning program. This year the school moved away from outside volunteers to staff volunteers with the support of 15 student volunteers. Joanna is leading a team of 3 school staff organizing and overseeing the nutrition program for all grades JK to 6 in 15 classrooms.
The program runs 5 days a week and approximately 100 students access the nutrition baskets daily. Tuesday after school staff and students bag and sort the various food items for distribution and then each morning at the first nutrition break at 11:15 am students will fill the baskets appropriately and distribute them to the classrooms. At the end of the second nutrition break students will retrieve all of the baskets. Joanna is very good at organizing and each day is color coded and labelled not only for the fridge items but also the daily menus.
Joanna and her team believe in growing leaders, students can apply to be a volunteer in Grade 4 and continue on until Grade 6 where they truly mentor the younger volunteers in the program. The school also reached out on how to be environmentally friendly and the ECO team was formed called the “ECO Stars” who made several suggestions that have been incorporated into their programs including the use of paper bags for cereal and crackers as well as suggesting apples vs apple sauce to reduce waste.
There were challenges at the beginning of the year navigating volume however with welcomed quick feedback from staff and students they could adjust quickly to appropriate quantities. Understanding what is most appropriate as well as welcomed food items was a part of their surveys and she continues to adjust as options become available.
When asked about THE IMPACT of the program in the classroom Joanna was quick to answer with the answer that students are very much:
- Students ore attentive in the classroom
- Students are excited about having healthy options
- Students look forward to the program as soon as they return from summer and other holiday breaks
- Teachers shared that the apples first thing in the morning are very much welcomed and appreciated by students who didn’t have breakfast before school
Joanna states that ” Creating the leadership team and developing new skills as volunteers at school and watching them all come together for the same cause, I consider a real success for the program. As well we are building a positive caring community at school where students never feel any shame accessing the food in the programs. We are very grateful for our program not just for the food but also the opportunity to develop new leaders.”