As a first aid worker at Fraser Lake Elementary-Secondary School (FLESS), Isabel Smith is used to being called down to the schools medical room to tend to sick students.
Two years ago she says it was common occurrence to have a number of kids complaining of stomach pains and cramps.
One particular student caught her attention. The girl had become known to Smith for her persistent complaining of stomach pains, and due to the frequency of the complaints, Smith decided it was best to take the student to the Fraser Lake Clinic to seek a doctors advice.
“When I took her to the clinic and we were waiting for her mom to arrive, I just happened to ask, “Did you have breakfast this morning?” and she said “no.”
“I said “Oh how come?” and she replied “Because we don’t have very much food at home and the food that we do have I want my brothers to eat”,”.
“Well my heart just broke – tears came to my eyes,” recalled Smith.
After her mother arrived at the clinic, Smith headed back to the school and sought the advice of fellow colleague Cheryl Parsons, known to Smith for working a lot with the student in question.
The two ladies decided to speak to the principal on the matter.
“So we went and talked to the principal and we told him exactly what had happened that morning …
“He looked at me and said “What are you going to do about it?” I said – “Well are you leaving this in my hands?” and he said “yep and I’ll support you guys.”
“So that was it – Cheryl and I decided if this is what is happening then we will feed the kids breakfast at school,” said Smith.
The women enlisted the help of a number of others in the community and together they came up with the idea of doing a survey to find out how many kids at FLESS were eating breakfast.
“We found out that 40 per cent of our kids were not eating breakfast which is a huge number,” said Smith.
“So the next week we served our first school breakfast – we made ham and cheese buns for the kids and we ended up feeding 140 students out of over 300 enrolled at the school,” she said.
She added that while the breakfast was specifically being targeted at 40 students in particular, any student who wants to eat, may eat.
Originally the breakfast for learning was only made available on one day of the school week, but due to a number of funding and grants received since I began, FLESS can now afford to serve the breakfast three days a week.
The breakfast for learning team follow the healthy schools network program and so everything served to the students meets a healthy criteria.
“Oatmeal is our most popular breakfast … we also serve ham and cheese buns, egg wraps, we do waffles with fruit, pancakes the odd time, yogurt and granola bars etc., and they get fruit with everything … so they are getting a very healthy, balanced breakfast,” she said.
She added that since the breakfast for learning program began, there has been less medical referrals and less office referrals for bad behavior.
“And when we go around and ask the teachers if they see an improvement in the kids they say – “Oh my gosh we can’t believe it – the days that you guys cook breakfast, it has done amazing things for our classrooms and the kids are much more eager to learn,”” said Smith
She added that teachers will come down during breakfast time and work on school work with students before class starts.
“You don’t see that very often – that’s basically unheard of in this day and age,” said Smith.
FLESS is always looking for more funding for the program and those who donate money are invited to come in to serve the breakfast to the kids so they can see where where the money is going …
“We bring in people from he community to serve.
“We bring in the RCMP, the doctors, the nurses, the paramedics, the fire department, local business merchants and other people that donate … we dedicate a week to them, and that way the students and the school get to know who everyone is.
“It has been an absolutely wonderful success,” said Smith.