Students at Lester B. Pearson Catholic High School are lining up to volunteer to serve breakfast to 80-100 kids every day. According to Rachel Sheffield and Kristine Coates, Educational Assistants who run the program for the Grade 7-12 school, students often continue to volunteer to serve breakfast long after they have finished their required community volunteer hours. “They feel an ownership over the program”, says Rachel, “volunteer students are often telling others to take off their coats and backpacks”.
This is a taste of the friendly, welcoming atmosphere that Rachel and Kristine have nurtured with the breakfast program. Sheffield says, for some students, starting their day sitting down with their friends for a nutritious meal is “a refuge away from some difficult home lives.”
But the program is more than the morning meal. Every afternoon, Rachel and Kristine work with students from the school’s high needs program alongside 3-5 co-op students to plan, shop and prep for the next day’s breakfast. For the high needs students, Rachel and Kristine say, the daily routine, as well as the valuable life skills learning, are great for these students who remain at the school until they are 21. It is also valuable for the co-op students who, while earning course credits, learn essential food preparation skills, how to buy healthy food on a budget and how to read a recipe. The skills they learn, Rachel says, transfer to their home life. Students leave the breakfast program knowing how to choose and cook healthy food for themselves and their families.
The breakfast program thrives on variety. Each day of the week they serve something new: muffins, smoothies, chicken wraps, English muffin pizza, homemade salsa, bagels with homemade strawberry jam. In addition, the office provides snacks and sandwiches for students requiring extra food.
The commitment that Rachel and Kristine show for the breakfast program is instrumental in making it a success. They say that they could not do it without the 100% support from the school’s principal Bill Walsh and the funding and support from the Ottawa Network for Education (ONFE).
Story: Allegra Newman
Photos: Kristine Coates