A social and healthy start for Niagara kids

February 12, 2015

By Don Fraser, St. Catharines Standard

School kids can skip a full breakfast for many reasons.

The young ones may not have touched their scrambled eggs and toast at the kitchen table.

Other teens might have come to school early for team sports. Despite having eaten breakfast, they find themselves famished again by the morning bell.

These are some of the hunger holes Niagara Nutrition Partners has been filling since 1998.

For Christina Dembicki it's a morning social at St. Nicholas School she eagerly anticipates.

"Sometimes I don't have time (for breakfast), so I come here after the bus — I just sit down and eat," said Christina, who spoke at a Thursday media event and provincial government cheque presentation to Niagara Nutrition.

"Everything is healthy and I always like to see my friends here, it's amazing," said the 11-year-old. "I get the bagels … I like the yogurt."

Kayden Peitsch also likes the camraderie in a food program that serves up to 50 children a day in the 170-strong St. Catharines elementary school.

"I love coming out from the bus and saying 'yay, breakfast club'!," said the 10-year-old, who is also from that school. "And I like seeing all the teachers coming in and supporting the health of the program."

St. Nicholas is among more than 200 school and community programs in Niagara providing free healthy breakfast, lunch and snacks to more than 13,000 children and teens.

At the event, St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley recalled his career as a teacher in the 1970s, at a time when these meal programs were generally unavailable.

"If the students had forgotten or did not have a good breakfast, they'd be sleepier, and not as geared up and ready to go," said Bradley, before a spread of bagels, apples, fruit juice, and low-sugar cereal.

"We believe this is a very good program and it just didn't happen many years ago," he said. "This is healthy fuel for you."

Any school can request the volunteer service, which is offered to all students.