Hugo Wong/News staff
It’s morning at Sidney Elementary and staff are busy preparing healthy breakfasts for students.
Principal Tom Vickers says a smoothie and something hot like oatmeal is there for any child who requests it. He estimates that without the program, about 25-30 children would go to school hungry, but he said there are also about 15-20 who “enjoy coming in and having a smoothie and hanging out with their friends.”
In the past Sidney elementary has had a breakfast program with donated baked goods but Vickers said that those options were not as healthy as they could be. For kids that can have some kind of breakfast in the morning, it might not necessarily be healthy, though Vickers said that nutrition value is not always up to families when they use food banks.
“In fairness to our families, often the things they’re getting from the food bank are those items that aren’t the healthiest options. They’re the white breads, they’re carbo-loaded. Our families are doing the best they can, but the things they’re getting aren’t the healthiest options.”
Instead, Vickers said kids at Sidney elementary are taught to make a “rainbow on their plate,” and these lessons are reinforced when kids maintain the school garden, which he calls “probably the most developed school garden in the district.”
Both the breakfast program and the garden’s irrigation system were funded by a donation from Holmes Realty, who decided they would donate $50 per home sold to a charity chosen once a year. In the past, the group have supported causes like the Canadian Wheelchair Foundation, the Our Place breakfast program and local sports. A few years ago, the group decided to support a local school, so they called the school board to see where their money would do the most good, and Sidney Elementary was their answer.
“One of the reasons we wanted to do local charities is that they don’t have the big budgets that some of the larger more international ones have, and they often get missed as far as philanthropy goes,” said David Parry, real estate agent and office manager.
Last year, Holmes Realty donated $12,000 which built a kitchen inside the school and bought food for the breakfast program. A $14,500 donation this year partly went to the garden’s irrigation system, which saved families from spending three hours a day maintaining the garden during the summer.
This year they have chosen to split the donation between Sidney Elementary and the ORCCA dental program, which provides not-for-profit dental care to children from low-income families (which is housed in an annex of Sidney Elementary).
“Sidney elementary school and Tom Vickers have been really great working alongside us and coming to us with projects that they need help with. They’ve been great to work with,” said Deanna Kirk.