Building bright futures, one bite at a time

Health, Wellness & Recreation

Photo: Sister MacNamara students (left to right) Afrah Hussein, Skye Macdonald, Ryan Twohearts and Yoseph Haidar help build the fruit bowls that are distributed to classrooms
Students can focus on studies thanks to healthy food provided by Child Nutrition Council

Every weekend, Debbie Lendhart Mair goes grocery shopping — but not only for her family.

Lendhart Mair is Principal of Sister MacNamara Elementary School. She arrives at school every Monday morning with enough fruit to last a week in every classroom. Her dedication to feeding students in the Centennial Neighbourhood school fits naturally in her life.

“I am often out shopping for my own family on the weekends, so that’s an opportunity to find some really good kinds of fruits and vegetables that are available for the students,” Lendhart Mair says. “My family also enjoys it. On the weekend I get my husband to come help me because it’s a lot of fruit to bring in.”

Lendhart Mair finds it fulfilling, as the school Principal, to see her students happily eating healthy snacks throughout the day.

“It’s just really rewarding to see how much they appreciate and enjoy it and the smiles on their faces,” she says.

However, the benefits of these school snacks go beyond the smiles on the students’ faces. There are also concrete, tangible changes teachers see in their students’ habits and behaviours because of the snacks.

“There’s plenty of research out there that suggests eating fruits and vegetables is beneficial and that it leads to good health, less sickness and illness,” Lendhart Mair says.

Students themselves even notice the positive effects the healthy snacks have on their learning abilities.

“When it’s after recess we get to pick what fruit we want, and it actually does help a lot with focusing in class because you’re not too hungry,” says Skye MacDonald, a student at Sister MacNamara Elementary School.

Yoseph Haider, another student at the elementary school, enjoys building the fruit bowls with his classmates — an activity that the school’s students get to take part in every Monday. He feels grateful for the opportunity to get a healthy snack during the day.

“I like building the fruit bowls because it’s a great experience. It just helps us because a lot of the time we feel really hungry and we really don’t want to wait until lunchtime and so it’s good that we have fruit bowls,” Haider says.

“It does help a lot with focusing in class because you’re not too hungry.”

Skye MacDonald, Sister MacNamara Elementary School student

According to Lendhart Mair, parents of her students appreciate the snack services that the school provides.

“It’s reassuring for parents to know if their child didn’t eat breakfast at home, then they can come to school and even if they miss school breakfast, they can still have a snack that’s a healthy choice for them to eat. Parents really appreciate the wide variety of fruits and vegetables we’re able to offer for their kids here,” Lendhart Mair says. “Sometimes parents are even able to help with us with the breakfast program and do some volunteering.”

School food and nutrition programs like Sister MacNamara Elementary School’s mid-morning snacks are made possible by the Child Nutrition Council of Manitoba (CNC). According to its annual report, during the 2018/19 school year CNC supported 271 school nutrition programs in Manitoba and provided 30,500 students with consistent, healthy snacks and meals at school. Since CNC’s start in 2001, the organization has been responsible for the administration of 4.8 million snacks and meals.

“We are so grateful the Child Nutrition Council of Manitoba is able to provide their support to our school because without their help there is no way we would be able to provide our students with essential nutrients for learning,” Lendhart Mair says.

Jess Gutkin, a Program Dietitian at CNC has seen the way schools like Sister MacNamara Elementary School dedicate themselves to nutrition programming with resources provided by the Council.

“None of this work would be possible unless you have school administrators, staff, volunteers and students who are really working together and making it a possibility because you really need collaboration to make it happen,” Gutkin says.

Lendhart Mair’s dedication to her students comes down to a desire to deliver the best quality of schooling she can.

“We try to do everything we can do in order to make sure the kids have a great learning environment. Providing a healthy snack at morning recess time is just one other layer we can offer, and it’s thanks to the Nutrition Council that we are able to do this,” Lendhart Mair says.

Learn more:

Recipient: Child Nutrition Council of Manitoba
Program: Healthy food in schools
Grant: $287,615 over three years, drawn from the Moffat Family Fund

CNC has also received capacity building grants, Youth and Philanthropy grants, and other Donor-Advised grants.

This story is featured in the Fall 2019 issue of our Working Together magazine. Download or view the full issue on our Publications page.

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