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The most important meal of the day
Breakfast Clubs of Canada visits Tsiigehtchic

Kassina Ryder
Northern News Services
Published Monday, December 9, 2013

Students in Tsiigehtchic got a chance to show off their breakfast program, when staff from Breakfast Club of Canada visited earlier this year.

NNSL photo/graphic

Josée Desjardins: A good breakfast increases the chance of success.

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Haileigh Cardinal and Dayle Cole, students from Chief Paul Niditchie School in Tsiigehtchic, participate in the school's breakfast program. - photo courtesy of the Breakfast Club of Canada

Melaina Patenaude, First Nations, Metis, and Inuit adviser at Breakfast Club of Canada, visited Chief Paul Niditchie School on Sept. 11. She said she enjoyed getting a chance to travel to the community, to see how the school operates its program firsthand.

"The breakfast program is something they're basing on the needs of the community," she said. "The kids are coming in and they (teachers) take the time in the morning to be present with the students."

Principal Darcy Douglas said the program helps ensure students who haven't had breakfast at home have something to eat at school before classes begin for the day.

"We always want to make sure the students, if they come in hungry, they have something available for them," he said.

Douglas said not only does the program ensure students get a healthy breakfast, if nothing is available at home. It's also there for students who are running late and might not have time to eat before coming to school.

Aiden Andre, Grade 4, said he is sometimes in a hurry to get to school. He said he knows there is always oatmeal at school if he gets hungry.

"We have oatmeal, and sometimes we have juice with it," he said. "Sometimes there's pancakes."

Douglas said the school often holds pancake breakfasts, or bacon and egg breakfasts once a month, which is a special treat for students.

The breakfasts also give students a chance to try out their cooking skills, he added.

"The students really seem to enjoy that and they want to participate in the cooking," he said.

In addition to breakfast before class, Douglas said the school offers a healthy snack around 10:30 a.m.

"We try and put in as much fresh produce as we can," he said.

Breakfast Clubs of Canada and Food First NWT partner to deliver the program, Patenaude said.

The organizations provide a variety of tools to support the program, including toasters and blenders, said Josee Desjardins, Breakfast Clubs of Canada's senior director for western Canada.

Douglas said the school appreciates the support.

"I don't think I've ever worked with a more co-operative group," he said.

Desjardins said making sure kids are fed before they start the school day doesn't just improve their ability to learn, it reduces bullying and even improves attendance.

"It increases the level of academic success, behaviour and concentration," Desjardins said.

By making the program inclusive and gearing it toward all members of a school community, it also reduces stigma around food security, she added.

"The students feel welcome and proud to be a part of that club in the morning," she said.

Patenaude travelled to Whitehorse and drove the rest of the way to Tsiigehtchic. She said the journey allowed her to better understand the Northwest Territories and its communities.

"It enables you to see the community on a whole new level. You have that time to just be present and just slow down," she said.

She said her visit to Tsiigehtchic was unique. Spending time in the small community allowed her to connect with students and teachers at the school.

"They have a beautiful community spirit," she said. "Just being able to walk around the community and spend time with the kids."

Andre said for him, the purpose of the program is simple.

"So we could eat," he said.

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