This June we’re inviting new people to ONFE’s Neighbourhood of monthly donors, and taking time to appreciate our long-standing monthly donors for their commitment to helping children and youth in Ottawa.
As a part of this initiative, I was able to meet with Judith Hoye, a retired educator and former Superintendent with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, who supports our School Breakfast Program on a monthly basis after years of seeing the program in action.
How did you first come in contact with ONFE?
I was a Superintendent with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. Part of my job with the OCDSB was working with community organizations that supported children and youth in Ottawa. I worked with ONFE in that capacity – at that time, it was the education branch of the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation— and saw the great effectiveness of its programs. When I retired in 2004, I wanted to keep in touch with the outstanding projects at OCRI, and then at ONFE. Since ONFE separated as its own not-for-profit in 2011, I have been donating monthly to the School Breakfast Program.
What drew you to the School Breakfast Program in particular?
After 35 years in the education system as a teacher and a principal, I saw the need for the program. It was clear to me as a teacher that, in schools with a number of families in need, children had challenges meeting academic expectations and that one of the reasons for this was that they often came to school hungry, as they had little access to nutritious food. And one of the things that schools began to do to remedy the problem was to feed them.
It’s not strictly part of the mandate of a school to feed kids, but a child can’t learn if he or she is hungry. It was clear to me during my time as a teacher that kids who had enough nutritious food to eat in the morning performed better in school. Even we as adults can’t focus if meetings run past lunch or if we haven’t had breakfast! Kids are the same; they can’t learn to read or focus on math if they’re hungry.
Now that I’m retired with no further influence on schools, I donate to the School Breakfast Program because it allows me to still help feed kids and thereby help them learn.
Based on your experience, you must have seen how the School Breakfast Program grew over the years.
Yes; school breakfasts started when I was a principal, growing from an initiative of just one board, to an expanded program by OCRI, and then continued through ONFE. The idea from the start was that if we as a city are going to build a successful business community, we need to build a smart workforce. Some kids will get there on their own; others need our help. From the beginning, the School Breakfast Program was a forward-thinking program, in that it was not just a help the kids thing – it was a help Ottawa thing. And I still believe that is true. If we want a good city, we need a healthy, educated population and a strong workforce. Helping all children learn makes that happen.
Amazing! So you really see the long-term effects of the School Breakfast Program, beyond what it does in the everyday to make kids’ lives better.
The poverty in Ottawa is hidden behind the doors of homes and apartment buildings and in schools; we are wealthy as a city, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t kids and families who are suffering. Having a School Breakfast Program doesn’t only mean breakfast, it means students come into school early, where they are welcomed by a breakfast coordinator, and where they are a part of a community. It’s not just poor kids or kids whose parents don’t care – students show up early for many reasons, and they can show up to school needing that extra bit of care. And caring for them is an investment in Ottawa as a city. We need to have the smartest kids we can in order to keep this community moving forward.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to someone considering becoming a monthly donor?
Any organization will tell you that it’s important to have money at major holidays and special occasions, but they will also tell you that an organization or a program cannot be built on one-time funding. Children need breakfast every day.
Like many retirees, I travel as much as I can during the year, and so if I don’t make an automatic monthly transfer then I wouldn’t remember to donate. But as a monthly donor, I know that I’m providing money that ONFE can count on. And it’s convenient for me. I don’t have to think about it; it just gets done.
Interested in joining ONFE’s Neighbourhood of monthly donors? Click here!