École McIsaac serves up healthy breakfasts through program

Staff and students at École McIsaac School are getting used to having breakfast served every day to over 400 students.

Vice principal Sylvie Dufour leads the program and said what started as a snack program transformed earlier this year into a full-blown breakfast program.

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“I didn't want just to have a few breakfasts in the morning here or just a snack,” she said.

“My goal was to have everybody having breakfast and, in the afternoon, we have a snack for Kindergarten. That's the way we work it out. We are serving over 400 breakfasts every morning - that's over 2,000 breakfasts a week.”

Students at McIsaac have been served a variety of breakfasts, everything from cereal and milk to egg sandwiches. Dufour said it takes a group effort to get the breakfasts out every day. The program’s menu has morphed from the beginning of 2019 and developed into a variety of meals.

“There was a lot of waste at the beginning, so I started to have a basic menu,” Dufour said.

“Starting with that basic menu, we will will add something when we have time during the week... right now, we know we can get free eggs because they sent me a coupon, so we get eggs and then make egg muffins.”

The breakfast program at McIsaac is divided into four sections, with different age groups getting a different meal on a rotating schedule. Every meal is prepared and sent out from a small canteen area next to the gym.

“At the beginning, teachers didn't want it,” Dufour said.

“It’s not easy. Your routine changes in your classroom with breakfast, because now you have that tray coming with food. You want to start your routine in the morning and you used to sit and wait. The teachers were having a hard time at the beginning.”

Dufour said teachers have now integrated the program into their daily chores inside the classroom and the effect on students is noticeable.

“When the breakfast doesn't come, they're worried,” she said.

“If you don't bring your bin back, you won't get breakfast. One day, we had a group who didn't bring the bin. We had breakfast ready, but we didn't serve it. The teacher said ‘We're in panic here.’”

The program has also cut back on student tardiness.

“[The students] are not as late as they used to be,” she said.

“It doesn't matter which social class they come from - sometimes, they are rushing. Mom or Dad has to go to work and they have maybe only have a piece of toast, but they come here and they will have a full breakfast.”

Making breakfast for every student was a priority for Dufour when she designed the program.

“You don't know who has a breakfast (at home) or not,” she said.

“I really believe that we need to be inclusive. Being inclusive means everybody. It doesn't matter where you come from. Money, no money, everybody gets breakfast.”

Initial funding for the program was provided by the Breakfast Club of Canada, but Dufour soon realized she needed additional funds before she could start serving breakfasts.

“I have never run (a breakfast program),” she said.

“I asked for bowls, spoons, some carts and trays, that was about it. I said, ‘Oh my god, I need all those flippers and all that stuff.’ The funding was a one time deal and I said, ‘Whoa, I don't have any plates, I don't have any forks.’”

Dufour said she was also missing some major cooking supplies, like an oven and mixer. With no funds available from the national organization, she turned to local efforts. With an application to the Northern Neighbours foundation, as well as a donation from Arctic Beverages, the program was ready to go.

While Dufour works to find savings, the program is still expensive. Dufour said she relies on help from volunteers across a wide spectrum, from janitors putting in extra effort to clean the kitchen to parent-fundraisers and even student volunteers.

“They were here for 50 hours, they never missed a morning,” Dufour said of the student volunteers.

“That was very impressive… two of them are going to Hapnot up next year. If they are looking for a job, I told them I would write a letter.”

For more information or to help the École McIsaac breakfast program, contact the school at (204)-687-7578.

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