Before the art on the walls, before the bright, colourful classrooms, and before the friendly faces, the first thing visitors notice when walking into Chief Sunrise Education Centre is the delectable smell of fresh baking.
Since the start of the school year, students there have benefited from a breakfast and snack program, sponsored primarily by a $30,000 grant from Canada Post, helped along by generous donations from groups closer to home.
“It sure goes a long way toward making our school feel like more of a home environment,” said principal Christina Steen. “There’s a lot of nurturing that goes on here and the good food is definitely a part of it.”
In years past, Chief Sunrise has provided snacks for students, like yoghurt and granola bars but nothing like what’s available now. According to Steen, the most important thing the money from Canada Post allowed them to do was hire someone to run the breakfast program. Before, staff were running it on their own time, leaving less time for classroom preparation.
That someone is Linda Atwell, a familiar face to many of the students already who had formerly worked as a high school secretary — not at Chief Sunrise — well-accustomed to dealing with children.
“When you feed the brain, you get a better student,” Atwell told The Hub, adding that she saw 30 children a day in the office for behavioural issues over the course of her 25 years secretarial career.
“That wouldn’t have happened if they’d had this kind of thing.”
Students stop her in the street and now come back to her kitchen for second helpings, especially of the ever-popular the pizza muffins. She said she has a hard time keeping up with the appetites of so many growing children but that she is up to the challenge.
“It’s about trying to empower them to cook for themselves as well,” she said.
To that end, the program also includes a family cooking component twice a week for up to three families each session.
“They get the chance to spend time as a family but also the pride of taking something home and making a nutritious meal,” said Steen.
More than anything, Steen said she and the teachers have noticed a huge change in their students since the program began.
“As soon as it started, we noticed a big difference in not just attendance but also in their ability to complete tasks and learn,” she said. “It’s just been incredible.”
— Sarah Ladik