Lakes District Secondary School breakfast program launched

Rio Tinto Alcan provides $109,000 in annual funding to benefit Nechako water shed area students

(Top) LDSS breakfast program volunteers and LDSS principal Mike Skinner were presented with a $10

(Top) LDSS breakfast program volunteers and LDSS principal Mike Skinner were presented with a $10

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and this notion is something that is now being reinforced at Lakes District Secondary School (LDSS).

The school launched a breakfast program in March and has since been feeding an average of 70 to 80 students breakfast per day. According to principal Mike Skinner, a study released this month by the Toronto District School Board shows that giving children a nutritious breakfast each morning has a direct impact on their academic performance.

Skinner said the idea to offer a breakfast program at the school was initiated over a year ago as other schools in the local area were already offering a full or partial breakfast program to their students.

“We looked into how funding a breakfast program worked and found that most schools offered a program that was funded by sponsorships and community donations,” he said.

It was then discovered that the Breakfast Clubs of Canada, a national not-for-profit organization, funds school breakfast programs so an application was made. However it was not until this year that grant funding was approved.

“Shortly after the Babine Forest Products tragedy we were contacted by the Breakfast Clubs of Canada about the program and I told them we had already applied, but they couldn’t find our application so we resubmitted it. We were approved for close to $20,000 per year in cash, equipment and product coupons,” Skinner explained.

Up to $3,000 of the funding was allocated to purchasing equipment to help with the operation of the program.

“We chose a commercial toaster, a freezer and some carts and stands for serving,” Skinner said.

Last week Rio Tinto Alcan also joined forces with the Breakfast Clubs of Canada and donated $109,000 towards to the program this year for  seven schools in the Rio Tinto Alcan watershed area.

Woyenne Kindergarten, Woyenne Primary School, K’ay Skak Higher Learning Centre, Fort Babine Elementary School, Fort St. James Secondary School and LDSS will all benefit from the funding that Rio Tinto Alcan has donated to the program through offering breakfast programs in their schools.

William Konkin Elementary School already offers a breakfast and lunch program funded through the province’s Community Link program for vulnerable and at risk students.

Decker Lake Elementary School and Francois Lake Elementary School don’t fit the Community Link program, guidelines, but have the option of making a request for funding as their numbers of vulnerable students change.

Colleen Nyce, Rio Tinto Alcan’s manager of corporate affairs and community relations said the funding to Breakfast Clubs of Canada will be ongoing.

“Our contribution touches the lives of students in a positive way,” she said.

The Burns Lake Rotary Club also pitched in to help fund the program, specifically at LDSS, agreeing to provide $20,000 over three years to the school’s breakfast program.

Students, teachers and those working in the school’s concession all pitch in to help cook the breakfast which Skinner said includes fresh fruit, yogurts, toast or bagels and cereal. Once a week there is also a hot breakfast offered.

Ron Zayac, Burns Lake Rotary Club member said, “Our community has had a serious economic impact with the loss of Babine Forest Products. Even before that time, there was a large part of the high school population, that for various reasons came to school hungry. Sometimes students were in a rush to leave or were late, other times there was no food in the house. LDSS administration recognized this need and wanted to be able to help and so they approached the Burns Lake Rotary Club and we decided to support the program and give it a kick-start for this year. We looked at how we could leverage a longer term financial commitment to the program to make it viable for more than just this year so the Burns Lake Rotary Club is donating $10,000 this year and $5,000 for the next two years, for a total of $20,000, hoping the school will be able to leverage more funds from the donation.”

Zayac said, “After the tragedy at the sawmill, our club decided to put on hold a major project we had planned for a multi purpose outdoor arena and then the breakfast program came to our attention. Given the current circumstances of many workers suddenly unemployed and many families seriously impacted, our club thought this was a great program.”

According to Skinner, other local groups have also pitched in to help fund the LDSS program, with food donated from the Burns Lake food bank as well as a $1,000, a $1,200 cheque from Fort St. James Elementary Secondary School, $5,000 from the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Burns Lake branch and $1,000 from the Burns Lake and District Teacher’s Association.

More than 600,000 breakfasts were served to students in B.C. last year through the Breakfast Clubs of Canada program.

The program benefits 4,124 students in 72 schools