For School District 19 (SD 19) superintendent Mike Hooker, a healthy breakfast is one of the cornerstones of academic success.
Last week, SD 19 expanded its free breakfast program to run five days a week.
Hooker said that survey results SD 19 has collected show that as kids age they are less likely to have a healthy and nutritious start to their day. In fact a 2017 survey of RSS students showed that 44 per cent of grade 10 students reported they ate breakfast less than four times a week.
Hooker said that was one of the motivations for expanding what has traditionally been a volunteer run and grassroots program.
“The major motivation for the expansion is that when you look at students eating patterns survey results indicate that they are less likely, particularly as they get a little older, to have eaten breakfast,” said Hooker.
“In many cases when they have it’s a rushed breakfast. So the idea is to meet a nutritional need in a multiage environment where kids can learn from and interact with one another.”
It’s exciting for Hooker and for District Breakfast Program Coordinator Melissa Hemphill, who have watched the program grow over the last two years.
In fact the breakfast program — which was started as a grassroots and volunteer initiative — was just recommended to receive $15,000 from the Columbia Basin Trust as part of their Community Initiatives Program.
The breakfast program was started by the Parent Advisory Council at Begbie View Elementary.
Every morning Hooker said that there are between ten and 50 students of varying ages who come to mingle and get a fresh and healthy start to their day at Begbie View Elementary, Arrow Heights Elementary, and Revelstoke Secondary School.
Most mornings, he says, there are about four parents present volunteering their time, and that as much as the program is about providing healthy options for their students, a real added benefit is the opportunity students get to socialize with one another.
“Any given morning there are anywhere between 10 and 50 students present and about four parents,” said Hooker. “And that’s a real added benefit to the program because students get to interact with parents and with other students and learn from them.”
There are smoothies available, fresh fruit, grains and vegetables, and the programs make use of the Community Connections food recovery program as well as are supported by generous donations and grants.
One student called it the highlight of their day.
Program coordinator Hemphill praised the school board for their hard work to formalize the program and support its growth.
“It’s awesome that the school district has gotten behind this to support it and help it grow,” said Hemphill. “It’s so volunteer heavy and of real value to the community.”
Both Columbia Park and Begbie View Elementary have had some breakfast food available for many years, according to Hooker, but for the last two years there has been more of an emphasis on formalizing the program and providing fresh fruit and healthy options for local students.