The Upper Room Soup Kitchen and St. Jean Elementary School in Charlottetown are teaming up to make sure every student gets the food they need to focus.
The soup kitchen is providing four to six bagged lunches daily for any student who needs a lunch as part of a pilot project.
The general manager of the food bank approached the school with the idea after hearing about it from a food bank in Alberta.
“A little light went off and I thought this is easily something that we could do to help our community,” said Mike MacDonald, general manager of The Upper Room Hospitality Ministry. “Anything we can do to help the students or help members of the community, that’s certainly why we are here.”
The lunches are assembled at the soup kitchen and contain a sandwich or pizza, fresh fruit, some snacks and juice or water.
“It would be really what I would send to school with my kids,” MacDonald said. “Just to get them through the day and really to give them that opportunity to learn throughout the day.”
Lorraine Goley enjoys packing the lunches.
“We try to make them as healthy as possible,” she said. “They need to nourish their brains as well as their bodies so they can think and get on with their education and let other people worry about their nutrition.”
Principal Tracy Ellsworth is happy to have the lunches for any student who needs one. She said there are all kinds of reasons why students don’t have a lunch.
“It may be a family got up a little late, maybe what the parent packed the child may not like, maybe they thought it was going to be a storm day,” Ellsworth said.
“A lot of kids are rushing out the door so they may not get a full breakfast even though we do run a breakfast program, they consume most of their lunch at the morning snack and then come lunch time they’re still hungry again.”
Until now, the school had some snacks available in the office that students could choose from.
“We’d offer the children one or two of those items,” Ellsworth said. “But they wouldn’t really fill their belly necessarily for the full afternoon so the lunch idea really solves that problem.”
The lunches have been getting good reviews from the students at St. Jean.
“Their first question often is what’s in it, as children typically would ask,” Ellsworth said. “They want to know that the content is something that they like but mostly gratitude for sure.”
St. Jean runs a five day a week breakfast program, that serves between 50 and 60 children daily.
“It’s no different for lunch,” Ellsworth said. “Children are hungry, children put out a lot of energy through the day, through play and learning and they need that nutrition in order to focus and learn.”
She would even like to see the school offer a full lunch program.
“We’re just not equipped with the human resources and resources to implement such a program,” she said. “But if we were fortunate enough to partner with outside groups such as Upper Room, then there’s no question that we would fully support something like that and I think the need is definitely there.”
The school and soup kitchen will reassess the pilot project after six weeks and if it goes well, the soup kitchen is hoping to offer healthy bagged lunches to other schools in the Charlottetown area.
“We’ll be contacting other schools, just to put the offer out there, and if there is a need in that school then we will certainly want to step up and help,” MacDonald said. “Ultimately, education is such an important thing for our kids and it’s a lot easier to learn on a full stomach than when you’re hungry.”