Pop into the cafeteria at Fulton secondary school on a week day morning and you’ll be greeted by the scent of toasted bread and the sound of cereal being poured into bowls.
Thanks to the free breakfast program, Fulton students can enjoy bagels, toast, cereal, oatmeal, hardboiled eggs, tea, hot chocolate and apples, whatever they need to start their day.
“We recognize that there are many different reasons why students miss breakfast before coming to school but also recognize how important it is for learning that students have a nutritious and balanced meal,” said vice-principal Melanie Jorgensen.
The program has been successful thanks to the efforts of parents and students in the Vernon Community School, which operates out of Fulton.
“We have a group of community members taking this on and this is a good way of having the students be a part of the school community and a great way for us to get the parents involved as well,” said Jorgensen. “These parents have made a significant difference to our students.”
VCS students Dannon MacKay and Corbin Kelley were instrumental in getting the program up and running.
“The response has been very positive,” said Corbin, a Grade 8 student. “We have had teachers come to us and say there has been a big difference in their students, because they are starting their day with a good breakfast.”
Dannon, who is in Grade 9, said the program got its start within the VCS classroom, where several students were not getting enough to eat.
“So we started a basket of food with apples and bagels, for anyone to enjoy,” she said. “But we decided we wanted to start something at school and when Corbin said he wanted to do something like this, I said I’d help, but it’s hard to do it without parents being involved.”
The students made a presentation to their PAC group, who have fully supported the program.
Dannon’s mom, Kathy MacKay, is one of the parents who has taken on the project.
“It started by us just knowing we needed to do something and we’ve had so much support from the community,” she said. “I’m really surprised at how many people are using it — we have sometimes 50 or 80 students using the program. It’s been amazing, the commitment of these kids to make sure that the program has been a success.
“We have put out the word so it isn’t just a Vernon Community School thing anymore, we need it to be sustainable and we wanted the help and involvement of everyone.”
Busy students appreciate the convenience of having breakfast at school.
“I’ve never had the time to make breakfast or even make lunch in the mornings,” said Cara Lavoie. “I’d be up doing homework and usually I can’t get up early enough.
“I am so grateful for the breakfast club and it’s made it so much easier for me to focus in class, too.”
But a program like this doesn’t happen without financial support and the Vernon Professional Firefighters has been instrumental in making sure the program has been a success, with a $700 donation. As well, firefighter Allyson Reich helps out in the program as often as she can.
“She comes at least once a week, and she’s a real role model for the kids — it’s great for the kids to see a female in a non-traditional role,” said Jorgensen. “We couldn’t have started up our program without money from the firefighters.
“We also get support from a local bakery that supplies us with baked goods, and we get support from local churches because there are other expenses such as purchasing a toaster, a kettle, a fridge, and the school supplied us with a locking cupboard.”
The program runs Monday to Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. and students and parents take turns volunteering to prepare and serve the breakfast.
“As teachers, we just don’t have the time to run a program like this as we are busy prepping, so we put the call out to all of our parents from throughout our school body,” said Jorgensen. “It’s now sustainable — we are fully funded for next year thanks to support from a local church.”