No matter what one’s age, learning on an empty stomach just doesn’t work.
Bridges for Women came to that realization pretty quickly after creating its employment preparation program for women transitioning back into the work force, having faced traumatic life circumstances.
Having discovered that women studying in the program often skipped breakfast – many fed their children but not themselves, and most are on limited incomes – the organization created Food for Thought. It was conceived as a way to help give students a better chance to absorb the classroom material, at least once a week.
Aware that families are only eligible for one Christmas hamper, now that the various food banks and other charities have linked their registrations, Bridges billed its food program as Christmas hampers that last last all year.
“It’s not our mandate, we’re really an employment program, but how can you (work) if you’re going hungry?” asked J Scott, communications co-ordinator for Bridges. “When we see the need, we have a hard time turning people down. Mothers tend to feed their children first and often don’t have enough leftover for themselves to eat.”
The call has gone out to potential donors to help replenish the stores that provide breakfast for students at the downtown campus. Bridges’ West Shore location is a little more fortunate, receiving enough donations of food locally to offer a healthy breakfast each day the program is in session.
The employment program’s participants in Langford generally dig in to such healthy food options as toast and cereal, yogurt, fruit, muffins and beverages. The offerings don’t go unappreciated.
“In the morning I’m usually really rushed,” says West Shore student Michelle Craddock, who lives with her daughter and two school-aged grandsons. “If I didn’t have this food at Bridges, then I probably wouldn’t eat, and therefore it would be really hard for me to retain information. I would just be worried about being hungry and be thinking about lunchtime.”
Fellow employment program participant Cortanie Van Doren says the availability of food when she arrives takes a load off her mind.
“I have kids too, and eating in the morning doesn’t happen for me. I’m just way too busy,” she says. “Seeing food when you first walk in is like a relief. Just coming in here and sitting down would be, umm, not good.”
Another participant, who identified herself only as Anna, says not only is the breakfast option a great way to start the day, it helps provide a comforting environment.
“It makes a big impact,” she says. “Coming in, there’s coffee and tea. It’s welcoming and makes it easier to learn.”
The Food for Thought program accepts cash or credit card donations. To contribute, visit bridgesforwomen.ca and click on the green Food for Thought button at the top of the screen, or call 250-385-7410, or 778-432-3790 on the West Shore.