By Adele Small
As the Program Manager for our Canadian Programs, I travel to each of our community partners annually. On May 16-18, 2011, I visited Eel Ground First Nation School located on the banks of the Miramichi River in New Brunswick.
CFTC: What type of programs does CFTC have through Eel Ground First Nation School?
AS: Canadian Feed The Children funds 75% of the school’s nutrition program, which provides healthy breakfasts and lunches to all 85 children who attend the school.
CFTC: What does this program entail?
AS: The nutrition program at Eel Ground First Nation School is fantastic. The school’s 85 students (from kindergarten to grade eight) each receives a healthy breakfast and lunch supported by CFTC’s program funding. A nutritionist reviews and evaluates the menu, making changes to appeal to the children’s taste buds, while keeping in line with Canada’s Food Guide. Fun activities involving fresh fruits and vegetables are also implemented as a way of engaging the children while teaching them the benefits of healthy food.
CFTC: How long has Canadian Feed The Children worked with this Aboriginal Community?
AS: We’ve been involved with the Eel Ground First Nation School since 2007. Byron Bushey, the Director of the community’s Child and Family Services initially contacted Canadian Feed The Children and the relationship grew from there.
CFTC: What kind of impact has this nutritional program had on the students that attend this school?
AS: Teachers have noted behavioral improvements in the children, as well as an increased ability to focus in class. Attendance and retention rates are excellent due in part to the success of the nutrition program. This has allowed the school to focus its attention in other strategic areas, such as literacy and numeracy. Test results on provincially administered assessment programs have already improved.
This program has increased the students’ abilities to focus in class and the teachers have reported a marked improvement in the grades of the students. The school undergoes provincial testing each year, and in the years since the nutrition program has begun, the students have performed progressively better. Eating healthy meals ensures that the children stay healthy and are able to enjoy an active lifestyle.
CFTC: Did you meet with members of the community during your visit?
AS: Yes, it was arranged beforehand that I would meet with different members of the community. It was a really wonderful experience, because until this point, many of these people had been striving to create and achieve individual goals but this was the first time many of them had come together to try to brainstorm what the goals for the community as a whole should be going forward.
CFTC: What were some of the outcomes from this session?
AS: The community members took turns talking about improvements that they would like to see. They noted that self-esteem, cultural awareness, respectful children and having a self-sufficient and self-reliant community were all important objectives. At the end of the day, the group realized that the goal the community wants to strive towards is to have healthy bodies, healthy minds and healthy spirits. From there, the group broke down all the specific activities that could help achieve this goal.
CFTC: What are some direct results that might result from this trip?
AS: It’s too early to discuss the next stages in detail, but I think it was a wonderful opportunity to get all of the community leaders together to discuss what they thought was important and how they can make changes to improve their community. It did not take them long to come to a consensus about what they thought the community needed. At this point, we’re going to review the key points and Canadian Feed The Children will work closely to help create sustainable programs that continue to align with their goals going forward. I will also be scheduling another visit before the end of the year to follow up with the amazing work that was done during this past trip.