Volunteers helping kids start the day healthy and fed
Vice-principal Sue Tonnesen saw a need for the breakfast program at Hans Helgesen elementary, so she decided to start one.
“I noticed a lot of children at school came without a proper breakfast,” Tonnesen said. “With the breakfast program we don’t have hungry kids anymore.”
The school received grants from non-profit organizations to make it possible. ONEXONE Learning Organization provided $11,400 and Breakfast for Learning chipped in $1,500.
After receiving grant money the program was launched in November.
Funds from ONEXONE is a First Nations Food Grant. The application required support from Beecher Bay Chief Russell Chipps.
The money can only be used to purchase food, and all meals must be based on the Canada Food Guide for First Nations and Metis and include all four food groups, Tonnesen said.
“I buy good food. There is no can opener in the kitchen. It’s all fresh,” Tonnesen said.
The program is open to all children of the Hans Helgensen school. Parents are asked to pay $85 a year for their child to attend the program, but parents who can’t afford to pay aren’t required to.
“The program is not for poor kids or rich kids, it’s for everyone,” said parent volunteer Cory Sievert. “This program builds community for the school. The kids eat together like a family. All the kids are happy in the morning.”
Each morning Tonnesen is in the kitchen by 7 a.m. getting breakfast ready with other volunteers. About 10 core people help with the breakfast program.
“It couldn’t run without all my volunteers,” Tonnesen said.
“It’s so much easier now. I just get my kids up and get their backpacks and we leave the house,” said Alicia Whittaker, a parent and volunteer for the program. “It makes life so much easier.”
Children sit down to a hot breakfast that could be pancakes, quiche or even breakfast pizza.
Some children use the program even though they eat breakfast at home. Principal Julia Sahota explained the school buses start picking up students at 7:15 a.m., and by the time the school starts, they are already hungry again.
“They eat first, they eat again and then they are able to function at school,” Sahota said. “Teachers notice that kids with early mornings are doing better.”
Starting a breakfast program has helped improve school attendance and student’s academic achievements, Sahota said.
Each day about 40 students come through the program to eat in the multipurpose room with its attached kitchen.
“Basically the kitchen was sitting doing nothing,” Sahota said. “We put it to better use.”