Adopt-A-School: Hatzic Elementary Launches First School Breakfast Program

Faced with clear signs of hunger among some of the 300 children attending the school – a 15-minute drive from Mission – the staff decided something had to be done.

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MISSION – For the past 110 years, Hatzic Elementary, a rural school near the north shore of the Fraser River, has never felt the need to organize an emergency program to feed hungry children – until now.

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So, on Monday of this week, the school began its first attempt at alleviating the kind of hunger that Vice Principal Chandy Ritter sometimes finds “heartbreaking.”

“There’s a little boy who keeps asking every five minutes, ‘Is it recess again? Is it recess again? Not because he wants to go outside and play. It’s because he’s hungry.

Playtime is when we usually give him a snack.

“I’m going to ask, ‘Did you have your breakfast? And it’s, “No, but when is breakfast time, Mrs. Ritter?” “

“Well, it’s actually before school, but recess is breakfast time for him. “

Faced with clear signs of hunger among some of the 300 children attending the school – a 15-minute drive from Mission – the staff decided something had to be done.

What they used is an illustration of the situation in the public school system these days, when staff find themselves staring at starving children every day but lacking the resources to feed them.

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Ritter explains, “We did a bottle drive and raised around $ 600. Then we asked parents to donate and we got another $ 200. “

So after running around to pick up empty beer bottles and cans and asking parents for help, starting this week a simple meal of cereals and milk was made available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday, and will be served three times a week until $ 800 runs out. outside.

If they’re lucky, it will last until Christmas, Ritter said.

Which is optimistic given that there are at least 30 children arriving at school clearly hungry and more suspected of needing to be fed.

Ideally, she would like to offer a good breakfast each morning, with more than cereal and milk on the menu.

“We really have to do this every day and we would like to do something hot at least once every two weeks – eggs or pancakes. “

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She is asking the Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-a-School campaign for $ 7,500 so that she can buy food for a healthier breakfast, as well as fruits and vegetables and healthy snacks to help these children get through the day.

She also needs kitchen equipment: bowls, plates, cutlery, cooking utensils, toaster and hotplates if she wants to do it right.

There is no dining room in the school, so breakfast is served in the gym, which is partitioned until the end of breakfast.

She also needed to ask parents for help.

“Our staff are very supportive and they will prepare breakfast. We have a good group of parent volunteers who will be cleaning up while we leave and start classes.

“They will also take care of the latecomers who arrive hungry so they can grab something before going to class.”

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It was the number of hungry children they saw that sparked the attempt to feed them as soon as they entered school rather than just having snacks available at the office when hunger drove them to ask for food.

“We’ve never had a breakfast program, but the (hunger) problems are increasing. We have more rental properties in the area and children are arriving by bus from older schools in town that have been closed. These schools provided breakfast and now these children are coming to see us.

“With the changing social climate and with the pandemic and families not working due to COVID, it is time for us to put a program in place,” Ritter said.

“Some parents just don’t have the money, others don’t know how to use the money they have. And some don’t tell us they don’t have money because they feel there is a stigma. So people who need help don’t ask for it.

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However, breakfast is a no-questions-asked, open-ended arrangement that Ritter hopes will capture any hungry kids and ease parents’ fears of being stigmatized.

“I spoke with other schools and was told that demand is likely to fluctuate. Some days it will be 15, others 50, depending on the time of the month – when there is money in a house and when there is not.

The signs of hunger that she noticed varied depending on the age of the children. (Children aged five to twelve attend school.)

She said the little ones don’t seem to understand what’s wrong with them.

“The little ones don’t recognize that they’re hungry, they’re just restless and they don’t know what to do (on their own). They just wander. Older people simply cannot concentrate.

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“It’s heartbreaking.”

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How to make a donation

1. ONLINE: Donate online with a credit card at vansunkidsfund.ca/donate

2. PHONE: To pay by credit card, call 604-605-2264.

3. MAIL: Complete the donation form here and mail it to the address listed on the form along with your credit card details or check / money order payable to Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund Society.

Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund Society

The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund welcomes donations from readers all year round to enable us to help hungry children. Donations are tax deductible and 100 percent of donations received go to grant projects to help needy children in British Columbia.

Contact: Michelle Roebuck, Fund Administrator, at [email protected], or call 604-605-2264.


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