The Food for Thought Breakfast Program started in 1999, when the principal at the time noticed that students were going into the cafeteria looking for food that was a day old or going to be discarded. The Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute staff members realized there was a real need as students did not seem to have enough food in their lunch or get them through the day.
The need was met by the breakfast program, serving students five days a week from 7:30-8:30 a.m. out of the kitchen at St. James Church, located across the road from the school. Grace and Mark Evans coordinate the program and its volunteers, managing grocery shopping, menu planning, safe food handling, food preparation and proper clean-up. This coordinated effort ensures each student has access to nutritious food to start their school day. Grace and Mark also help fundraise for the program and make sure all receipts are balanced and handed in to the school for monthly reporting.
Even though Grace and Mark’s own children are grown and no longer involved with the program, the pair continues to arrive at St. James Church each weekday morning at 7:00 a.m. to prepare a healthy breakfast for the students who need it. They have grown to know and love the 35-40 students who visit the program daily. Their priority is certainly proper nutrition for these students, but they go on to explain that the program offers much more than that. They often interact with students who do not have a reliable adult role model at home, so they have the opportunity to truly impact all areas of the students’ lives. They often have students working on homework and talking about career choices and they do their best to model positive behaviour for the students. While they do not have a lot of rules, respect tops the list and Grace and Mark proudly report that all of the students are respectful of them, the rules and each other.
Grace loves the opportunity to make gentle suggestions to try new foods and experiment with healthy food that the students often have not had access to.
This program provides a safe space for students, with a positive and caring environment. There is no judgement, so students often feel comfortable opening up and discussing their issues. Grace and Mark often keep in touch with students after graduation and celebrate their success in post-secondary education, as well as their career and life successes. They were especially touched when one of the students supported through his high school years came in one morning for a visit. This young man attended the Food for Thought Breakfast Program regularly when he was a student at GCVI, and grew to know and respect Grace and Mark. He was so impacted by the program that he wanted his wife and children to meet these “angels” who were there for him throughout high school. The reality is Grace and Mark often do not know the reasons that bring students to Food for Thought, but what they do know is they are making a difference in the lives of many of these students.
We extend our sincerest thanks to Grace and Mark for over 15 years of volunteer service with the Children’s Foundation Food & Friends Program and all of the support they have provided to the students of the GCVI Food for Thought Breakfast Program.