There’s a universally shared feeling of regret upon waking up in the morning and thinking of going to school. You’d much rather hit the snooze button and study the back of your eyelids rather than a math textbook during first period.
Unless your school serves hot breakfast.
As of January 2015, a new breakfast program was introduced into Weston Collegiate Institute. Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday morning, from 8:00 – 8:30, a plate of free, hot breakfast was served to students.
Prior to this year, a small club named, aptly named the ‘Breakfast Club’, was traditionally responsible for handing out morning snacks to students who passed through the front foyer. Snacks typically ranged from apple sauce, rice pudding, yogurt tubes, bags of carrots, and apples. Upon the graduation of the Breakfast Club’s key member, the small cups of rice pudding eventually vanished. The front foyer remained desolate and the students remained hungry.
Ms. Babic, a standing vice principal, turned out to be well attuned to the frequency of empty stomachs that growled in harmony with the morning bell. She decided to implement a new breakfast program in replacement of the late Breakfast Club.
“The breakfast program is an important way for students to start their day,” says Ms. Babic. “It’s important to me that the breakfast we are going to offer is hot, nutritious, and healthy – not a cold breakfast. It has to be made every morning and not pre-packaged.
“I looked at how much money we had and worked with our lunch lady for a price that she was happy with [and that] I was happy with. Then, we budgeted it – if we couldn’t afford five days, we would do three days. I’d rather have a good breakfast for three days than a crappy breakfast for five days. It’s expensive, but I think it’s worth it.”
Breakfast varies slightly each of the three days, but each morning includes a combination of the following assortment: pancakes and waffles, an egg-and-bagel sandwich, a side of homefries, scrambled eggs, toast, fruits, and a choice of apple or orange juice. The meal easily adds up to a six dollar breakfast at the local Tim Horton’s, but no student would ever opt for a walk to the Lawrence plaza over a free plate of hot potatoes. Especially enjoying the food among friends.
“It’s like a big Breakfast Club. You eat with your friends, socialize, and relax. Nothing stressful has happened in class yet, so it’s a nice way to start the day,” Ms. Babic says with a smile. “I noticed that the [previous breakfast] was given out in the hallway before, so I was like, ‘No way’. I wanted people to sit and have their food together. I think as a culture we need to do that more. We need to respect sitting together and eating at a table.”
In addition to the heightened sense of community, the idea of breakfast is simply enough to act as motivation for students to arrive on time.
Ngan Tran, a WCI student, comments, “A lot of students can’t eat breakfast often because it’s either not provided to them or they don’t have the time. [But now,] they can because it’s provided to them! I know personally for me, I used to wake up late and still have to make breakfast and I would be even more late, so it’s good motivation. I wake up every morning at the same time and I’m ready for breakfast.”
“I think breakfast at school is not only good in that kids get to have breakfast in the morning, but also because it’s motivation to go to school! Like, you’re excited to go to school even if you have a test first period – you can study during breakfast,” says David de Vries, another WCI student.
The program is partially funded with small sum from the TDSB and by FoodShare, an non-profit organization that helps supply healthy foods to various schools and communities.
FoodShare employees and a City of Toronto Public Health Dietitian came to assess the program’s menu and to audit the kitchen’s environment in which breakfast was prepared daily. Upon their visit, they were immensely impressed by the calibre of the program. Apparently, WCI is the only school in the TDSB to serve breakfast of this quality and style.
“They were very impressed. This was the best breakfast program they had seen anywhere. They asked if [I] could come speak to the City of Toronto [about it] but I was like, ‘I’m too busy for that,'” recalls Ms. Babic with a laugh.
Pleased with the reaction from the city officials, Ms. Babic hopes more funding could be put into the program in order to extend the breakfast program over the entire course of the upcoming school year. This year was used as a tentative introduction to gauge the program’s budget and participation, but with its success, the next step is only to make things bigger and better.
“The first day we had about a hundred and fifty students come in! I love them – they’re responsible, they’re happy, they’re clean – except for that one group I always have to yell at, but they finally got it,” Ms. Babic laughs proudly. “Knowing that these one hundred and fifty kids had a really good breakfast – it’s worth every penny.”
This post was brought to you by:
The Weston Village BIA.