Toronto Foundation for Student Success

We are the Toronto Foundation for Student Success. We work diligently to identify and initiate innovative, non-traditional programs that deal with hunger, poverty and violence experienced by students in our city. Together, we advocate on their behalf and continually search for new ways to help children overcome barriers to success in school.

TFSS LogoOur Impact Why We Exist

Our Mission: 

The Toronto Foundation for Student Success helps students succeed. We help feed students, addressing issues of poverty, hunger, and poor nutrition, and their effect on education. We continually search for new ways to help children overcome barriers to success in school. We work to provide safe, inclusive environments in which children may thrive. We are advocates for children, acting on their behalf. 

Our Vision:

The Foundation will identify and initiate programs to deal with the hunger, poverty and violence experienced by our students. The Foundation will act as an advocate for students. We will work in partnership to bring together the resources, energy and enthusiasm of the federal, provincial and municipal governments, the Toronto District School Board, education workers (teachers, school staff), families, concerned corporations, other NGOs, private individuals and the many diverse communities within Toronto.

Our Story What We Do

History of Organization:

The Toronto Foundation for Student Success (TFSS) is an independent charitable organization dedicated to nourishing Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) children and helping remove barriers to their education. TFSS was founded out of necessity in 1998 to provide students with healthy meals to start their day right. We’ve now expanded our programming to include in-school medical assistance, and after school programs as well as free hearing and vision checks and emergency funds for children in need. TFSS strives to help enable all students reach high levels of achievement and to acquire the knowledge, skills and values they need to become responsible members of society. 

All funds that we raise have immediate and lasting impact on children and we’re proud to say that our administrative fee is less than 6%. This allows us to invest a minimum of 94% of all funds raised in essential programs.

Education is the great economic and social leveller and we work together with our partners to ensure that children and youth here in Toronto are ready and able to learn each school day.

Accolade & Accomplishments:

  • TFSS helps support over 750 breakfast, lunch and snack programs to over 170,000 children each school day.

  • Our Feeding Our Future Secondary School Nutrition Program, the first universal breakfast program in the province of Ontario, provides breakfast daily to approximately 5,800 hungry teens. TDSB research indicates that this program has helped our youth achieve improved behaviour and school attendance as well as higher academic scores.

  • beyond 3:30 is an innovative after school program for adolescents that not only keeps them safe after school but also provides support for homework and allows them to develop new culinary, artistic, musical and sporting skills. Originally started in six schools in high-risk Neighbourhood Improvement Areas throughout the GTA, the number of sites has now expanded to 18.

  • 2010 winner of the CBC Toronto Vision Award for Immigrant Inclusion. TFSS hires international trained medical graduates (IMGs) to check the vision of children in schools in the city’s less affluent neighbourhoods. This allows the IMGs to gain meaningful experience in the healthcare field which helps them gain entry into the medical system here in Canada.

  • Since 2006, we’ve secured sustained core funding, growing our Sprott Asset Management Gift of Sight and Sound program by 300%. This program provides vision and hearing checks for elementary aged students as well as free eyeglasses or hearing assistance devices.

Gift of Sight and Sound MaterialsOur Programs How We Do It


Our programs vary greatly but all have one thing in common- they strive to level the playing field so that all children and youth can take advantage of what school has to offer them. Please check our website for more programs not listed here:

  • beyond 3:30 – Through our free, innovative, after-school program, we keep over 1,200 middle schools children  in high-risk areas safe  after school  from 3:30-6:30 p.m. each day. The program provides physical fitness, homework help, arts and culture activities as well as nutrition and specialized programming. 
  • The Sprott Assett Gift of Sight & Sound program – We provide vision and hearing screenings and optometry clinics for over 16,000 students in 150 of our neediest schools. Those who need glasses and hearing assistance devices receive them free-of-charge.

  • Model Schools Paediatric Health Initiative (MSPHI) – TFSS, along with partners including TDSB, supports 5 in-school medical clinics that cover a total student population of over 23,000.

beyond 3:30


beyond 3:30 provides middle school students between the ages of 11 and 14 with a safe place after school each day. It provides free programming to children who may otherwise miss out on extra-curricular learning opportunities due to limited family finances or few social services. This innovative program operates in 18 middle schools engaging ‘at-risk’ students in activities such as homework club, sports, book club, junior chefs club, drama, dance and visual arts during the critical hours between 3:30-6:30 p.m. This time-frame has been flagged as the period when “tweens” are most likely to get in trouble.

This free after-school program provides a ‘hand-up’ to the students involved, their parents, the schools and ultimately the community. We provide a safe place for our participants where they are mentored by staff and volunteers and are able to develop positive social skills like cooperation, compassion, decision making and conflict resolution.

Program Impact

Since the beginning of beyond 3:30, students have demonstrated an increase in compassion, more effective communication skills and better solutions to conflict resolution. Parents report that their children have become more social at home, have improved their view of school and are starting to benefit academically. The children have been able to make new friends and deepen their sense of belonging in their own school community.

Marie said she was ‘made’ by her mother to go to the beyond 3:30 program two days a week because of the homework club. Marie was not happy about this but she went anyway. Later on, she had a changed attitude and had increased the number of days she was attending the program. As she said: “I like that I can get my homework done and my mom is happy, and then I get to play sports, do the mural, learn guitar and lots of other fun stuff. I’m here almost every day now and I have lots of great friends!”

When Sam, a student from the behavioural class, started the program he wouldn’t interact with the other students or participate in activities. In just a few weeks his changed attitude and behavior was like “night and day”. He now focuses, is a team player and takes great pride in the meals he helps to create in the Junior Chefs’ Club. He “glows” when other students compliment his team’s meal.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by program

“Food insecurity is a growing problem in most parts of the country, creating daily hardship and the lifelong risk of diminished physical and mental health… Food insecurity puts families and individuals at higher risk for many poor health outcomes including reported poorer physical and mental health and a range of chronic diseases.” (Toronto’s Vital Signs®, 2014). The Junior Chef’s club is a cornerstone of beyond 3:30 where students learn to cook healthy food every day- improving their health and reducing behavioural issues. By teaching them how to plan and prepare their own meals, we give students the skills they need to keep themselves healthy for the rest of their lives.

“Youth gangs and gang violence have been an issue within Toronto’s socially disadvantaged communities for several decades. Toronto’s gang related deaths peaked in 2003 at 35, and have since ranged between 14 and 30 a year” (Toronto’s Vital Signs®, 2014). The after school hours are when youth are most vulnerable to engaging in gang-related or delinquent behaviour. The beyond 3:30 after-school program keeps middle school students safe and engaged right after the school bell rings. Principals in beyond 3:30 schools witness fewer students hanging around after school, and lowered incidents of gang-related activities, theft, or complaints from community agencies about students causing trouble. Parents also noticed their child becoming more helpful at home, and having a more positive attitude toward other family members since attending the program.

“Only 5% of Canadian children meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Children and Youth (60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily)” (Toronto’s Vital Signs®, 2013). With a minimum of 60 minutes of skills-oriented physical training, beyond 3:30 students are becoming healthier and learning important leadership and teamwork skills, not to mention excelling at sports and having a great time doing it. 

The Sprott Asset Management Gift of Sight & Sound Program


If you can’t see the blackboard or hear your teacher speak, it’s hard to learn.

Poverty and settlement issues, such as the cost of transportation to appointments, lost wages when time is taken off work to take children to appointments, limited English language skills and/or no medical or insurance coverage prevent many parents from taking their children for vision testing. Children who can’t see or hear properly quickly fall behind in school and have significant literacy problems and behavioural issues. Research shows that these problems are quickly remedied once the student’s vision or hearing is corrected.

TFSS provides free vision and hearing checks to thousands of children living in Toronto’s highest needs communities, right at their schools. In addition, free glasses and hearing assistance devices are provided to children in need. Since 2011, we’ve distributed over 12,000 pairs of glasses. 

Our optometry clinics are managed by international medical graduates (IMGs) who are able to gain valuable experience and expertise in Canada that helps towards their application for Canadian credentials.

Program Impact

Over 23,000 children have received vision and hearing checks. On average, 28% of children are referred for further vision checks – 75% of whom have received the glasses they require free of charge. Additionally, 15% of the children have been referred for further hearing checks. Every year, TFSS provides approximately 2,500 free glasses to children in need. The aim is not only to document the immediate and life-changing results, but to also track over the longer term the impact on student success.

Many young lives have been changed through this essential program. For example, one student was found with paper deep down in her ear canal that was impairing her hearing; another student had 90% hearing loss in one ear and required a hearing device; and a third child needed eye surgery. If it wasn't for the Gift of Sight and Sound program, these situations may never have been recognized or may have worsened before being identified.

A little girl smiled as she walked in to her classroom to receive her new glasses. The Optician asked before placing the glasses on the child, ‘What do you see out the window?’ She replied, “I see a tree”. After fitting her glasses, the Optician asked, “Now, what do you see?” She almost shrieked, “Oh boy! I see leaves and their different colours! I see the tree trunk! And, oh, I see a bird. Look! I see a bird in that tree!” She promptly hugged the Optician and Community Support Worker, and began to dance!

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

“In 2011, one in 12 Toronto residents had arrived from outside the country in the previous five years. One third of the total population had arrived in Canada within the previous ten years. Toronto has more than twice the proportion of recent immigrants as Canada (8.2% compared to 3.9% nationally)” (Toronto’s Vital Signs®, 2013).

"People with low-incomes have higher health risks, are more likely to suffer from complex co-existing health conditions, and are less likely to access preventative care than high-income groups" (Toronto’s Vital Signs®, 2012). This program is built on the knowledge that poverty interrupts both student success and health. As the Toronto’s Vital Signs report states, nowhere does this become more glaringly apparent than in the most ‘at-risk’ school communities.

Model Schools Paediatric Health Initiative


The Model Schools Pediatric Health Initiative arose out of a concern about health access inequities and disparities among some of Toronto’s most vulnerable children. Families living in poverty face many barriers to accessing health care. We’ve learned through the Gift of Sight and Sound program that 11.5% of children do not have valid OHIP cards; 85% of children who require further hearing assessment need to first see a Physician and because many families with OHIP don’t have a family doctor, this follow-up is not always done; also, less than 10% of families referred to an Audiologist at the Canadian Hearing Society couldn’t made it to the appointment as both transportation and language barriers were just too great for many to overcome. This Initiative recognizes the school as an innovative access point for children facing barriers to health care to receive the services they need in the most direct and efficient way, including diagnosis, management and follow up of multiple health and developmental concerns. Currently there are five school-based medical clinics serving children in priority neighbourhoods across our city.

Program Impact

Two phases of a three-phase research into school-based clinics have been completed by TDSB Research and Information Services. The Phase 2 Report has identified seven areas of impact that can improve the health and educational outcomes for students in high-risk communities:

  • Equitable access to primary health care – immediate and direct access to services without accessibility barriers
  • Efficient referrals to specialized medical services – faster determination of specialist needs combined with efficient facilitation of referrals
  • More students, including those with suspected health issues, can be supported
  • Provision of and access to comprehensive health care, including preventative and mental health related services
  • Increasing opportunities for student success – through dealing with physical illnesses or mental health related problems that may otherwise go undiagnosed, but distract students from learning in class or keeping them out of school altogether
  • Indirect impact on families and communities – admitting “unattached” and “uninsured” students give clinics the opportunity to address familial health issues and extend the primary health care services to parents and younger siblings
  • Cost effectiveness – a significant impact on students and their families in priority neighbourhoods which leads to increased chances of educational success and decreased health care expenditure over the long term.

A six-year-old boy new to Canada was having recurring pain and had little appetite for food. He had these health problems for years but in his country of birth his family couldn’t get him a medical check-up or proper health care. He attended his school clinic where he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and is now receiving the care he deserves.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by program

“If parents lack access to affordable transit, it can adversely impact their children’s health. Several recent studies have found that the cost of transit can delay or prevent a parent seeking treatment for a sick child, attending medical or dental appointments or accessing community services such as parent-child programs. For example, a 2011 study of newcomer health in Toronto identified the need to travel long distances to a doctor, without access to a car – especially with children – as one of the most common transportation related challenges” (Toronto’s Vital Signs®, 2013).


Program Partners

beyond 3:30

Funding Partners:

  • Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sports
  • Rogers Youth Foundation
  • Weston Seeding Stronger Communities
  • Toronto Foundation
  • RBC Foundation
  • Toronto Foundation – Cavelti Family Foundation
  • Hadden Family Foundation
  • The Actuarial Foundation of Canada
  • Kavelman-Fonn Foundation
  • Youth and Education Fund
  • Jays Care Foundation
  • Saputo
  • TDSB in-kind – space provided through Principal’s Permits free of charge

Program Partners:

  • Arts for Children and Youth
  • First Book Canada
  • OISE and York University Teacher Training Programs
  • YouCan Mentoring Program
  • TAIBU Community Health Centre
  • Bata Shoe Museum
  • Hip Hop for Literacy
  • Derailed Theatre
  • Centsible Students

The Sprott Assett Gift of Sight & Sound Program

Funding Partners:

  • Clearly Contacts – provide free eyewear
  • TDSB Inner City Model Schools 
  • Sprott Assett Management
  • Skills for Change
  • Youth and Education Fund
  • Anonymous Funder

Program Partners:

  • The Hospital for Sick Children
  • Dr. Manu Bansal

Model Schools Paediatric Health Initiative (MSPHI)

Funding Partners:

  • Kavelman-Fonn Foundation
  • Paul Steinhauer Fund
  • Skills for Change 

Program Partners:

  • Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services
  • Black Creek Community Health Centre
  • Rexdale Community Health Centre
  • Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities
  • St. Michael’s Hospital

Children at beyond 3:30What You Can Do

beyond 3:30


Average cost per student per day is $10.  However, below are some specific ways of supporting beyond 3:30:

  • $75, 000 – Sponsor a school
  • $8, 500   – Sponsor a year-long program activity (ex: arts, multimedia, dance, drama, etc.)
  • $2,200    – Sponsor an 8 week program activity

Donation Impact

Giving to beyond 3:30 helps to shape and improve the lives of the children who participate and contributes to the growth of healthy communities and the City of Toronto as a whole. Your contribution will help beyond 3:30 to sustain our current programs, creating a lasting impact on the communities where programs are run. A grant can also give us the ability to expand to other communities.

The Sprott Asset Management Gift of Sight & Sound Program


  • $20,000 – Grants this size would cover the cost of one International Medical Graduate (IMG) newcomer to Canada to provide 100 vision screening clinics and gain Canadian experience as they move through the process of certification. We have a pool of six IMGs in the program
  • $15,000 – Would allow a comprehensive review of the impact that Gift of Sight and Sound has on educational attainment
  • $3,000   – Covers the cost of new screening materials. These materials are $500 per package and six new packages are required
  • $1,300   – Covers the cost of one clinic in one school

Donation Impact

While there is currently no government funding for this program through Toronto Public Health, the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Health Promotion, or the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, grants from the philanthropic sector sustain it and ensure that over 23,000 children in “at-risk” communities have access to the medical attention they deserve. These children come to school ready to learn to the best of their ability because they are able to see and hear clearly. 

Model Schools Paediatric Health Initiative


  • $50,000 – Hires an internationally trained medical graduate (IMG) to co-ordinate the clinics
  • $20,000 – Provides a fund to cover the costs of children with no OHIP per site
  • $1,000   – Covers the cost of one hearing follow-up clinic for students referred through the Gift of Sight and Sound program (there are 150 schools to be served)

Donation Impact

Grants to this initiative help families in priority neighbourhoods overcome the barriers to accessing health care and benefit from a level of medical support that most take for granted. As one school administrator wrote, “We had a student who was referred for a hearing follow up. Upon visiting his doctor, it was discovered that the child needed surgery. If it wasn't for the screening clinic and referral, this may never have been recognized.” For this one student who did secure services in the community, their life has been changed.


Catherine Parsonage
Executive Director & CEO
Charitable Number: 889036455RR0001


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