St. Francis Junior High School has a breakfast program, just like many other city schools.
Kids come in, get a little something to eat and get a better start to the day. That sounds like pretty standard stuff but at St. Francis, it goes one step further.
"Ultimately, there's a breakfast program there and it serves a need for those in the city that need food in the morning, but it's more than that," said principal Gerry Muldoon, who added the room where the program operates out of is complete with a smart board, where students are shown educational videos on proper nutrition or something a little more fun, like videos of Christmas lights, to get them in the spirit. "It's just a good place for them to be. It's a good place for food and nourishment for the body but also for the mind and the soul as well."
The safe, welcoming and relaxing environment allows students to sit and chat over breakfast, added Muldoon, which provides a solid start to each school day.
And since many students at the school arrive after long bus rides, particularly First Nations students from the Blood Reserve, a little extra food to start the day is welcome.
Breakfast has been served at St. Francis for at least the last six years, said Muldoon, who added some food is also set aside for a lunch program, operated on a smaller scale the last four or five years, all in an effort to ensure students have one less thing on their minds.
"That's the idea behind it - the kids aren't going to learn if they're wondering where their next meal is going to come from."
Muldoon added the number of students utilizing the programs varies year to year.
"During the downturn two or three years ago there was an increase in kids coming. It's not as noticeable now."
A breakfast program is also noticeable at Our Lady of the Assumption School, as principal Greg Kostiuk said while there isn't a huge number of students going without at the school, the program does have great value.
"There is a need. We provide breakfast, lunch and snacks for kids that either don't have it or forget it," he said, as he pointed to two students at his school who also travel in from the Blood Reserve, who due to time constraints each morning, have the option of eating at the school. "The kids from that one family are on the bus at 6:30 a.m. and get here at 8 a.m., and school doesn't start until 8:35 a.m. We provide a simple breakfast for the kids between 8-8:30 a.m."
The principal added providing that option for some extra nourishment throughout the day greatly benefits the student population.
"It gives them the energy. Their stomachs aren't rumbling and they're more focused in class."
Kostiuk said the need for breakfast and lunch programs at the school could grow.
"I do see us using it more in the future, as we're seeing more and more immigrant families coming in."
Food for Thought funds, directed through Lethbridge's public school district and the Holy Spirit Catholic school division, help local schools target that need and give help where it is needed. The campaign kicked off Nov. 29 and will run until Dec. 20.
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