Owen McDermott knows how vital a good breakfast is to daily success – as the recipient of the Community Volunteer Services Award and with 25 years of teaching experience under his belt, Owen has been widely recognized for going above and beyond the call of duty. As a teacher in a middle-lower class area of Toronto, Owen sees the ins and outs of child hunger on a daily basis.
4 Questions with Owen:
1. Please tell me more about yourself, your role, and how you became involved with Kellogg?
This is my 25th year teaching. I’ve been at Valley Park Middle School for 25 years. As Canada’s largest middle school with hundreds of students enrolled, there’s a mix of kids from all over. I’ve taught just about everything here—grade 6-8 core, physical education, music, media arts, and more. It was a natural fit to work with Kellogg’s on this program as I am passionate about this issue. As a teacher, I face hungry students all the time and have seen firsthand the positive impact breakfast can have on a child’s day. It really is essential to fuel young minds and set them up for success in the classroom and beyond.
2. Could you tell me a bit more about the hunger issues affecting Canadian classrooms?
Student success is a priority, and talking to them is important. As time goes on, one of the issues is regarding hunger and nutrition. I’ve been involved with the breakfast club at our school, and what I like is that is that it’s the first contact with children before they start their day. Kids were reluctant to attend at first, but as time went on, students were able to notice the caring individuals and teachers at our club. Our numbers have been growing, and it’s making a difference. The breakfast club isn’t only important for the nutritional value but the nurturing value as well. There are many reasons that children come to school hungry. It might be a family struggling to make ends meet, they run out of time to eat breakfast because of the morning rush, or they simply may not feel hungry. Whatever the reason, we all need to work together to help every child reach their full potential.
3. Could you explain more about the Kellogg's Breakfasts for Better Days survey and how it has helped mitigate this issue?
This is the second annual survey they did. Teachers across the country were surveyed. We realized that there is 104 minutes of lost education and that 92% of the kids will be left unlikely to participate. Many students are unable to concentrate and this may lead to misbehaviour in the classroom. This affects the learning of all the other students. The infographic that we came up with is very important. It shows that hunger is still a problem that faces Canadian children and must be solved. The Kellogg Canada Breakfasts for Better Days program is about helping students achieve their full potential inside the classroom and out.
· Kellogg’s Breakfasts for Better Days is a global commitment by Kellogg to donate one billion servings of cereal and snacks, half of which are breakfast, to children and families in need by the end of 2016. As part of the Kellogg’s Breakfasts for Better Days initiative, Kellogg Canada is supporting breakfast programs across the country, along with the thousands of volunteers who are actively working to stamp out hunger in Canadian classrooms.
· In addition to supporting breakfast clubs for more than 10 years, Kellogg is also encouraging Canadians to buy a box and help feed children and families who need it most.
· For every box of cereal sold, Kellogg Canada will donate $0.50, to a maximum of $100,000 to its breakfast partners across the country. This is in addition to the more than one million dollars donated to breakfast clubs from coast-to-coast to date.
4. Looking to the future, what else do you have planned with regard to this initiative and tackling this problem?
The key is in the public’s eye. Through newsletters, the work with the school, with Kellogg to reinforce the idea of the importance of that meal going through the day, we can achieve our goal. We need to make sure letters are going out, newsletters, posters, etc. I’m so happy to be contributing to this. If people are able to share the infographic, speak about it, and keep that in the general discussion we will be moving along nicely. These issues are local, people can get involved, and make a difference for our children.