Breakfast program exhibits the spirit of giving, all year long

Shirley Michie, the Breakfast/Lunch Supervisor, helped start the breakfast program as a volunteer mom over 17 years ago, because she saw a need in the students at West Dover School.

Many Calgary Board of Education programs benefit from the spirit of generosity, not just around the holiday season, but all year long. The CBE is surrounded by a network of teachers, administrators, parents and students working in partnership with community organizations who lend a hand in keeping programs alive by donating money or volunteering their time.

One such program is the West Dover School breakfast program, which is open every morning from 7:30 to 8 a.m., serving up to a thousand breakfasts of fruit, cereal, bread and juice a month.

Shirley Michie, the Breakfast/Lunch Supervisor, helped start the breakfast program as a volunteer mom over 17 years ago. Michie saw a need and feels deeply about how the program has evolved.

“I have enjoyed every moment of it. It is really rewarding,” said Michie, her voice full of emotion. “I feel like the students are all my children, and I feed them so they don’t go hungry. Sometimes parents have to make a hard choice on what to pay when living from paycheck to paycheck.”

“The food and donations from the Boys and Girls Club go such a long way to keeping the program alive,” adds Michie. “Without this program, the children would have a hard time functioning. Their behavior, patience and concentration would suffer without something in their stomachs.”

West Dover School teachers Dustin Link and Jason Sawatzky and students Caitlyn T. and Keith F. from Grade 3 and Janelle W. from Grade 5, hold up their smoothies. Students at West Dover School participate in the breakfast program at their school.

West Dover teachers Dustin Link and Jason Sawatzky arrive at 6:30 every morning before school and help Michie with breakfast.

“They are awesome,” Michie said with a laugh. “I thank all the administration and staff members for being behind me. I am privileged. It would be very chaotic if I didn’t have help.”

Link and Sawatzky, who volunteered their time to take a food safety course so they could help out in the breakfast program, have started to expand the menu on Wednesday mornings, giving students a surprise breakfast of eggs, wraps, or grilled cheese sandwiches and smoothies.

“As a teacher, I can see the direct impact breakfast has on our students,” said Link. “I think it is just as important for them to have good nutrition as it is to learn academics in school. And it’s an opportunity for the school to come together to help out.”

Link said breakfast time brings all the students together to socialize, share and interact positively with each other while eating healthy food. He said it is also great to volunteer at his place of work every day and see the benefit immediately.

Sawatzky said they are volunteering because the students need the program and really appreciate it.

“If there is food left over, we take it to the classrooms to offer to students who might have missed the breakfast program,” Sawatzky said “And now it is extending out to the community, because students are starting to ask if they can bring in smoothie recipes to share and make.”

As the smell of toasted bagels, buttery eggs and melted cheese wafts through the room, students like Caitlyn T. and Keith F. from Grade 3 and Janelle W. from Grade 5 help by passing out fruit, juice and cereal as well as cleaning up.

Caitlyn has been part of the program for three years. “It feels like we are at home and part of a team. If we miss breakfast in the morning, the breakfast program is always there for you. And it’s free, you don’t have to pay. When I eat in the morning, I study better because it helps me to concentrate.”

“I like the program because there is a lot of food, and we get to eat as much as we want. I do better when my belly is full, because you get higher grades,” said Keith.

Janelle has also been part of the program for three years. “I like it because they serve you food and make you feel like family. It is a proven scientific fact that if kids eat, they do better in school. And I think it is good to have this breakfast program here, because it is good leadership for the teachers and good for us students to help. We know the teachers care about us and we are not alone.”

The principal of West Dover School, Cathy Turner, recognizes the need of her students and the dedication of her staff and the agencies that make the breakfast program happen. She says the dedication of her staff is truly appreciated.

“There are never any questions asked as to why we are providing this service, it is just a way of being,” says Turner. “In turn, the students share their appreciation through acts of kindness, assisting with the cleanup, a smile here and there and in the understanding that we care.”

Warm thanks from the students go to CBE’s Fuel for School program, which works in partnership with Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary FANS Program and the Breakfast Clubs of Canada.


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Last Modified: December 18, 2012