Queneesh Elementary breakfast program helps kids thrive

Kids at Queeneesh Elementary don’t just have the opportunity to get an education at school, but also a hearty plate of breakfast every morning.

For the last several years, the Courtenay-based school has offered a breakfast program geared towards students who may not be getting enough to eat at home.

Every morning, parents, school staff, and Church volunteers gather in the school’s kitchen to scramble some eggs, pour some juice, and make “the most important meal of the day” for over a dozen students.

School principal Christine VanderRee says the program has been around since before she started at Queneesh in 2011.

“What we try and make it is a no-questions-asked opportunity to get kids access to healthy food choices,” she said. “Some of our kids come to school hungry. Some come on a regular basis [because] their parents know their kids can access food at school. Some come from homes where the workday for their parents starts really early.

“One girl comes to school really early, and even though she’s fed at home, she tops up her tummy before she starts the school day. Some are just looking for the extra food.”

The benefits of the before-school program are clear — multiple studies have shown that eating a healthy breakfast helps students focus better during classes and improves their overall well-being.

Amelia Valmorbida is one of the volunteer parents that helps out with the breakfast program. She has three kids who all study at Queneesh Elementary.

“I think it’s important that kids have food so they’re able to learn throughout the day and not just focus on hunger. I like being part of setting them up for the day in that way,” she said.

Local Church gets involved:

Three years ago, the Living Hope Church (which does not have a physical building of its own) started holdings its Sunday services at Queneesh Elementary.

Prior to that, the Church held services at Mark R. Isfeld Secondary School, but had to find a new location due to scheduling conflicts.

After moving to their new location, members of the Living Hope Church asked Queneesh Elementary how they could get involved and help out with the school community.

“One of the suggestions I had was to see if they could help with the breakfast and lunch programs,” said VanderRee. “And they’ve stepped up.”

Marion Furnell is one of the Living Hope Church members who has become involved with the breakfast program. She says it’s been a blessing to help out.

“It makes you feel good, you get to know the kids and you feel like you have an arm around the community to help support them,” she said.

According to VanderRee, the school also offers a similar initiative for lunchtime.

To fund the program, Queneesh Elementary applies annually to the Community LINK program, which is funded by the Ministry of Education. This year, the school received $11,000 from Community LINK (about half of which goes towards the breakfast and lunch programs) and a further $1,000 from the school’s PAC budget.

The school also receives numerous in-kind donations from organizations such as Tim Horton’s, which supplies fresh bagels, muffins and cream cheese each week. LUSH Valley has donated fresh fruit as well.

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