Dartmouth north community group tackling hunger in schools

A day at school can take a lot of energy and concentration for a young student, and it can be especially difficult if the child is hungry.

“A lot of people sometimes they just stop focusing. They say, ‘I’m so hungry.’ And they just stop doing their work,” said Cheyenne Hardy, who recently graduated from John Martin Junior High.

“So I think if they can eat, they could eliminate that problem.”

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READ MORE: Hunger in north Dartmouth schools about more than food access

A group of citizens in Dartmouth north called the Public Good Society of Dartmouth says stories like Hardy’s prompted them to investigate further.

The group spoke with five area schools: Bicentennial School, Harbour View Elementary, John MacNeil Elementary, John Martin Junior High and Shannon Park Elementary —; all of which already have existing breakfast programs.

Hunger an obstacle in classrooms

Society board member Matt Spurway surveyed 44 teachers to see whether those meal programs were sufficient and released the numbers this week.

“The first question we asked each teacher was, ‘Do you think hunger is an obstacle to learning in your classroom?’ Over 90 per cent of the teachers said yes that they believed it was,” Spurway said.

Forty per cent of teachers also said at least half of their students would benefit from additional nutritional support.

“Maybe kids are acting up because they’re hungry. Maybe they’re not participating because they’re hungry. But if you’ve never experienced that, you haven’t thought about it,” said fellow society board member, Kate Watson.

“We wanted to raise awareness first and foremost but then the public good is also about finding solutions.”

The group held a community meeting back in May to gather ideas. Among the recommendations was offering more access to healthy food that wasn’t just available during breakfast programs before school.

“There should be a cart in the hallway just filled with regular snacks like bananas, juice boxes, granola bars, or anything like that and on their way to class, students can grab an item and take it to their class and eat it during the lesson,” said Hardy.

“That way, people don’t have to be embarrassed to eat and they can still get something to eat for breakfast.”

The community group plans to meet with the schools again in September to brainstorm and implement new programs to help students.