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$720K grant awarded to St. Clair College to tackle homelessness and school nutrition programs


School nutrition and youth homelessness are two issues that will be tackled through a $720,000 grant awarded to St. Clair College by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

“The breakfast programs in my opinion are one of the most important resources that certainly our school has.” Said Mel Brown, principal of James L. Dunn Public School in downtown Windsor.

Nutrition programs are important to schools like James L Dunn. Their breakfast program feeds about 300 every morning and another 150 to 200 at lunchtime.

“We've noticed a dramatic drop in discipline issues since putting in the breakfast program,” said Brown. “We feed students every morning and it’s a chance for us to connect with them.”

The project involves the Ontario Student Nutrition Program South Region run through the VON locally.

Beckie Berlasty, program manager of research and innovation at St. Clair College, says the research group is working on creating a universal nutrition program, and hopes to roll out a pilot project by the end of the three year grant that will include help to feed and educate students.

“Understanding where it comes from. Why it's important. How it benefits them and involving families in that process too talking about what's culturally relevant for them in terms of foods,” said Berlasty who says the grant will also delve into how youth become homeless and barriers preventing them from exiting homelessness.

“That's a gap in our current programming. If we don't have accurate statistics and accurate data on those who are experiencing youth homelessness how do we develop programming accordingly.”

The research targets the 16-24 age group.

“It is eye opening that I fall into that category,” said Social Justice and Legal Studies student Sarah Wilkins. “Some of the things we’re looking at are pathways that lead youth to becoming homeless in the first place as well as some of the barriers that prevent you from escaping homelessness once they’re put into that cycle.”

Researchers are also looking at hidden homelessness like couch surfing.

“Youth maybe don't consider themselves homeless,” Wilkins said. “They don't access any of the services out there or they don't have the ability to access them in the first place.”

Family Services Windsor-Essex is partnering with this part of the project and would like to see more youth supportive housing like their new complex on the city's west end.

“So that youth are on a very short trajectory through homelessness so they become homeless, they're supported very quickly in gaining those skills they need to move on very quickly,” said Barb Iacono, housing manager at Family Services Windsor-Essex.

She hopes this research project can yield a result that will enhance programming available to youth in our communities.

“I hope we can use some of this data to do a better job supporting youth and collaborating better with our community partners.” Top Stories

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