High School's Food Program Marks One Year – With Breakfast

HADEEL IBRAHIM

The Daily Gleaner

May 3, 2017

The Fredericton High School food support initiative Kats' Kitchen is turning a year old, and it’s celebrating with a fundraising breakfast.

Robyn Allaby, FHS vice principal and program organizer, said more than 100 volunteer students, teachers, and administrators help make Kats' Kitchen a reality. They serve as many as 175 breakfasts and 125 lunches every day.

This costs the program about $2,400 each month, funded through outside donations and fundraising drives.

This Friday, four local restaurants The Blue Canoe, The Cabin, The Coffee Mill and Porter’s Diner ­have agreed to donate $4 for every $7 Kats' Kitchen Breakfast that they sell, Allaby said.

She said the organizer's focus this year is on finding long-term sponsors, and using the program as a learning tool for students.

“This year we’re really trying to promote leadership within the organizational group itself, and so the Grade 11 and 12 kids, they're running the meetings, writing the agenda,” she said.

Kats' Kitchen provides breakfast to students independently, but the lunch is provided by the Fredericton Community Kitchens.

Bart Myers, chair of the student hunger program with the Fredericton Community Kitchens, said these programs are indispensable.

“Sometimes it’s invisible,” he said. “A child who comes to school hungry is incapable of focusing on school. That lack of access for school is a major obstacle to kids participating in a learning environment. If kids are coming hungry to school their thoughts are on ‘where am I going to get my next meal’ not on what’s happening in chemistry class.”

According to a 2016 Hunger Count national study, 32.5 per cent of people assisted in food banks in New Brunswick were under the age of 18. This is under the national average of 35.6 per cent but more than British Columbia and Nova Scotia.

Myers said the community kitchen feeds more than 600 students a day in the Greater Fredericton Area, but despite that he still has no gauge of the extent of the city’s student hunger problem.

“[Before we started] teachers throughout the system were bringing in granola bars and juice boxes and having all kinds of stuff in their file cabinets or their desk drawer and sort of handing those things out when approached by a student,” he said. “For Fredericton what you would have had is a lot of well-meaning teachers and a lot of well-meaning parents trying in an ad­hoc way to respond to a problem that was much bigger than them.”

This is why volunteers and hard­working teachers are imperative for these lunch programs, he said.

“[School staff] are working all week but they’re giving up additional time on the weekend to make this work."