Let's get real about poverty in Alberta
Edmonton’s Amiskwiciy Academy maintains relationships with several community groups and businesses in order to provide free breakfast and lunch every day.
Kids don’t learn when they’re hungry.
That’s why Fred Hines started a school breakfast and lunch program when he took over as principal of Edmonton’s Amiskwiciy Academy eight years ago.
The site near downtown Edmonton is an alternative school for at-risk kids who come from all over western Canada. Many don’t live with their parents and it’s tough for some of these families to afford lunch for the students.
“We just felt, if that’s a barrier, let’s reduce that barrier,” Hines said.
Now the school provides free breakfast of eggs, toast, cereal and fruit as well as a simple but nutritious hot lunch to all students, which number about 250.
“Students really appreciate the fact that we have a chef here who really takes pride in the meals and cooks meals that are right up their alley,” Hines said.
Hines said the result has been improved discipline and demeanour, few expulsions (just one during his time) and a reduction in suspensions. Students are also more polite, take greater pride in their school and form relationships with staff, who also partake in the meals.
“I’ve done breakfast and lunch extensively in my past career and it just goes to show that having something healthy for breakfast and for lunch really improves learning and overall mental awareness,” Hines said. “I just know that it’s a significant tool that works.”
The program operates thanks to partnerships that Hines has established with a number of businesses and community groups, such as the Edmonton Food Bank, Cobs Bread, Breakfast Canada and the Métis Child and Family Services Society.
Except for the salary of the chef, who is on staff, Hines is able to keep the nutrition program going without tapping into his regular budget. He gives back to benefactors by inviting them to the feasts that are held regularly at the school or by providing meeting space or other help as needed.
“If the food bank needs a place for a staff meeting, they call me, they got a spot for a meeting, no charge, they’re in the building,” he said.
“If they [have] an event downtown and they need 500 potatoes cooked and some burgers cooked up … we’ll do it lickety-split. So we really give back in that way and help out. It’s a real working relationship.” ❚
Read other articles from this series on poverty in Alberta