Breakfast Club needs help to serve a need

By Radhika Panjwani
of Brampton Guardian

Breakfast Club Breakfast Club
Breakfast Club Breakfast Club


BRAMPTON — Who knew golden-glazed grilled cheese sandwiches served along with baby carrots would provide students from a Brampton elementary school the necessary incentive to be in school on time.

Julianna Oseibi, 6, and Jaheim Williams, 11, students of the Ridgeview Public School at 25 Brenda Ave. said taking time for the 'most important meal of the day' helps them and their classmates get a great start.

“The school has a Panini press so the sandwiches tastes good and are all cooked dark brown whereas at home they turn out black,” said Julianna. “I like eating breakfast with my friends. Wednesdays are the best because it’s the grilled cheese sandwich day. My friends and I did not touch the carrots though.”

Jaheim, a fussy eater at home, on the other hand said he doesn’t mind either the carrots or the fruits the school serves.

The Breakfast Club at Ridgewood Public School provides more than 300 students with a nutritious meal that helps them focus better in class. Before the program began, students would show-up at the school’s office complaining of stomach pains and headaches.

Over 65 per cent of our students are new to Canada and their parents are working shift jobs or holding two jobs,” said principal Jan Crofoot.  “Until few years ago, many of the children came to school with no lunches or insufficient food for nutrition breaks.  One student brought a moldy piece of bread and a rotten orange because his sister had made his lunch and that was all there was at home.”

The school council and staff sat down and decided to start a breakfast program with the help of the Breakfast for Kids Program- Boys & Girls Club of Peel. After carefully exploring various existing models, they decided on the grab-and-go option.

Each day, before the start of the school, students line-up and receive a brown bag containing toasted bread or bagel with cream cheese, a yogurt and a fruit or vegetable for 25 cents — even if a student doesn’t have the change, breakfast is provided.

The upside of the Breakfast Club has been that there are hardly any stragglers or latecomers; and the well-fed students are more attentive in class.

“I noticed the students focused more and some of them were introduced to things they did not necessarily have at home such as fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Carrie Southwell, a Grade 3 teacher at the school who decided to ‘buy’ her entire class, a healthy breakfast for a month. “As a teacher, I feel good my students have at least one nutritious meal. Also, I think it’s easy for the parents as well because if the kids are eating the same thing, there’s a bit of peer pressure for everyone to make healthy choices.”

Special education teacher Tina Mistry agreed. She said prior to the Breakfast Club, the children were listless and restless. Aside from  improving their concentration, she said, the club breakfast allows the children to take part in a shared experience, one that allows them to eat together and learn lessons that extend beyond the classroom or the yard.

The cost of running the Breakfast Club is $15,000 per year and Ridgewood Public School received a bit of wind in their sails early this year when the Rotary Club of Brampton Flower City donated them $3,000.

As Flower City Rotary Club president Dhaman Kissoon served breakfast, he said he was deeply moved when a student looked up and solemnly said, “thank you, Rotary man.”

“Our club focuses on helping children from across the world and here in Canada,” said Kissoon, a Mississauga lawyer. “When we saw there was a need, we knew we had to help. I have been here in the kitchen helping prepare the food, but this is the first morning I was out there in the hallway serving the breakfast. What this told me was there’s a need and community organizations have a role to play in filling the void.”

The funding the school receives from Breakfast for Kids is however not enough to run the program till the end of the year.