“We don’t know what challenges kids may be facing so if we can help start their day with food in their bellies, so they can be focused and learn, and show them that we care, it’s a great way to give back to the community and help our community grow,” says Julie Ferguson, material coordinator at Imperial’s Sarnia refinery.
The entire school population of 515 students has access to the school nutrition program, which includes breakfast and snacks daily, prepared by rotating crews of community volunteers. Between 25 and 45 children from kindergarten to Grade Eight are regular breakfast attendees.
“The program definitely helps with student learning and attendance because for some, they know they’re going to get fed at school,” says vice principal Randi McDonald.
Student participation includes volunteering to set up tables and chairs and some food preparation as part of a life skills program. Even the youngest help to clean up after the meal.
Taking personal responsibility for the program provides a sense of ownership and a school-wide spirit of community, which extends to the volunteer corps.
“It’s really cute to see how some of the younger ones take to some of the volunteers, telling us little stories and remembering us from previous weeks. It’s clear that giving your undivided attention means so much to a young child. It gives you such a warm feeling to know you’ve done something to help,” says Ferguson.
In addition to providing volunteers, corporate donations like the $2000 provided by Imperial in 2017 help supplement government funding and ensure the program extends through the school year.
“It really does take a village to raise a child, and in a small way, this is our part in that. I’m grateful that Imperial supports our time to do this,” says Ferguson.