Rachel Kulasa

Corporations finance northwestern B.C. school breakfast programs

Two schools in Terrace and one in Thornhill are on the list

A NATIONAL charity has added a number of northwestern B.C. schools, including three from Terrace and Thornhill, to a list of those offering breakfast programs financed directly by corporations.

Rio Tinto Alcan had been paying for breakfasts at six northwestern schools and is now extending that to five more schools through a $250,000 three-year commitment.

And $100,000 from TransCanada Pipelines for four northwestern schools over three years means both corporations will feed an estimated 1,000 students a year through the Breakfast Club of Canada.

Rio Tinto Alcan’s two local schools are Skeena Middle School and Cassie Hall Elementary while Thornhill Primary is the local TransCanada breakfast school.

Representatives from the charity and the two companies were in town this week at the schools, helping school employees serve up breakfasts.

Money not only buys food but equipment such as toasters, grills and dishes and, for Thornhill Primary, a dishwasher.

Representatives from both Rio Tinto Alcan and TransCanada Pipelines, which has been chosen to build two natural gas pipelines across the north, one to a planned LNG plant at Kitimat and one to another one in Prince Rupert, said it was important for the companies to be involved in communities in which they are active.

Sandra Dube, the First Nations support worker at Skeena Middle School who single-handedly runs the program, says between 30 and 40 students a day have a breakfast consisting of either French toast or pancakes, yogurt, cereal, fruit and juice.

“I’ve been here seven years and at the start there was fruit roll-ups and fruit cups. We’ve been really making an effort to make it more nutritious,” she said.

Skeena principal Phil Barron estimated the breakfast program is used by approximately eight per cent of the school’s 580 students.

Last year the breakfast program cost approximately $7,000, a figure he expects will rise this year because of inflation as well as increased demand.

“There’s a social aspect to this as well. Having students eat together sets a tone. We want a positive school climate and this starts off the morning well,” said Barron.

The school also draws on money from the provincial government through the school district and profits from canteen sales and gym rentals to finance breakfast as well as lunches.

The Thornhill Primary breakfast program is expected to feed 30 students a day at an annual cost of $10,000 and principal Darlene Bragg-Hounsell said that number could rise depending upon the day.

It’ll be the first time there is a breakfast program at Thornhill Primary which had been offering muffins and other goods at snack time paid for by the province through the school district.

“There is no stigma attached,” said Bragg-Hounsell. “This is for any student. What we really want to do here is promote good nutrition.”

Ben Neumer, one of the Breakfast Club of Canada representatives in Terrace this week, said the charity acts as an efficient way for corporations to finance breakfast programs because it has an established system in place.

“Our goal is to really help students so they can have their first class on a full stomach,” he said.

Qualifying schools are chosen for their community’s level of economic activity.

“Schools apply and we look at the communities of highest need,” said Neumer.

Corporations such as Rio Tinto Alcan and TransCanada can also direct their money toward specific schools.

In the northwest, the schools financed through Rio Tinto Alcan are located in Vanderhoof, Southbank (which is on the south side of Francois Lake south of Burns Lake), Burns Lake, Fort St. James, Granisle, Houston and Terrace.

Schools in Port Edward, Thornhill, Vanderhoof and Prince George have breakfast programs through the TransCanada Pipelines contribution.