For Grade 11 students in the leadership class at Fulton secondary school, helping the community begins close to home.
When the students discovered that there were kids coming to school hungry, they decided to do something about it.
“Our teacher, Mr. (Rick) Smith was asking students if we wanted to work on the school’s lunch program and we thought that was a good way to help the community,” said Binita Gandhi. “If you want to help the community, what better place to start than with your school — we want to be students helping students.
“I had been looking for a place to volunteer, but nothing fit in with my schedule but then I thought that since I’m in leadership, why not start with my own school?”
Fulton has a lunch program where cafeteria students make and sell healthy meals. Vice-principal Melanie Jorgensen said the goal is to provide monthly lunch cards to students who do not have access to food during the day.
“During their elementary years, schools are partnered with a local community organization that supports students by providing a breakfast and/or lunch programs,” she said. “Unfortunately, once students transition to high school, the supports are currently not in place.”
Student Rupy Gakhal said it’s difficult to know how many students are coming to school hungry since they aren’t speaking up about it.
“They are probably sitting next to you, but you don’t know it,” she said. “The problem is that the lunch and breakfast programs stop once you get to high school.”
Courtnie Fuster said Jorgensen is aware of about 30 students using the lunch cards, but the actual number of those in need is likely closer to 50.
“Kids come up to Miss Jorgensen, the counsellors and teachers they trust and let them know they need a lunch card,” she said. “There was no funding for the cards, so that’s why we took this one on as a class project.
“Before this project, I never thought about who is going hungry at school, so it’s been eye-opening.”
So far, leadership students have sold pizza, with pizzas sold to the school at cost by Pizza Factory and Mario’s. And a Christmas raffle is under way, with prizes donated by Tim Hortons.
“Our first pizza sale went so well that we’re going to keep doing it,” said Fuster.
The most recent fundraiser was a day of bagging groceries at Real Canadian Superstore Dec. 13. Students will also be at the store on March 7.
“Leadership did it last year and made tons of money so we though this would be a great fundraiser for us this year,” she said.
The students volunteered to stand by the till asking for a donation to bag groceries; last year, students raised $700 and hoped to top it this year.
Jorgensen said $35 provides lunch for one student for a month.
“Besides our wonderful team of students who are fundraising for our program, we have also been very fortunate to have individual community members and businesses donate to our lunch program,” she said. “One wonderful lady held a dinner at her house and asked her guests for a donation to our food program.”
She said another community organization donated funds to help support nine students for a month with lunch cards.
If anyone would like to contribute to the Fulton lunch program, they can donate at the school office; tax receipts are available on request for donations of more than $10.