A Healthy Start at St. George School

Breakfast club coordinator Siobhan Stewart and her team of committed volunteers start every day feeding 50-80 hungry students at St. George School in Westboro. Breakfast runs from 8:50 -9:15 and is open to anyone in the school. According to Siobhan, what makes breakfast such a success is that it is self-serve. Students can choose what they want and the volunteers help them serve themselves. Nothing is wasted. Hungry students are also able to take baggies of leftovers with them for lunch as some of the kids, Siobhan notes, don’t always bring lunch.

The menu rotates every week. Some days they have cereals, bagels, bread, jam. They also offer yoghurt, milk, cheese, eggs and fruit. Their most popular days are when they make fresh fruit smoothies.

Siobhan says that the support from the Ottawa Network for Education (ONFE)’s School Breakfast Program has been instrumental in keeping the program running. She has benefitted from the Coordinator Training Sessions offered by ONFE, an annual event that brings breakfast program coordinators together to review province-wide program guidelines and learn new tips. At one of these sessions, Siobhan learned from other coordinators that many programs serve fresh vegetables for breakfast. She tried it and was surprised by its popularity.

According to Siobhan, “without our team of parents and community volunteers this program would just not work so seamlessly. They all are fully committed to helping ensure all our students receive a healthy breakfast to start their day ready to learn.”

The breakfast club, Siobhan says, provides a social atmosphere that is safe and welcoming. Kids can sit together in multi-age groupings and eat a nutritional meal. They see volunteers preparing food for the breakfast club and learn about healthy food. Due to its wide catchment,  many kids are bussed to school. When the busses are late, Siobhan says they delay the breakfast program so those students have a chance at a healthy start to their day.

Students at St George School are also learning about growing and eating healthy food through the school tower gardens. The Ontario Network for Education’s Classroom Garden Program provided the school with two tower gardens along with operating instruction and curriculum linked programing ideas. Two student teachers, Stefanie Partridge and Allison Warren lead the program every Wednesday with six rotating students from the two grade 3 classes. The students are directly involved in maintaining the tower, checking the pH and adding nutrients and water. They also reap the benefits of their hard work by harvesting the tower when it is ready and using it to cook a yummy snack for the class. Last year, students made salad and pesto for pasta.

Story: Allegra Newman

Photos: Allison Warren