Feeding minds and stomachs in Windsor's west end
Windsor Morning's Jonathan Pinto learns about the breakfast program at West Gate elementary school
West Gate elementary school is located on Campbell Avenue in Windsor's west end. Home to 570 students, ranging from kindergarten to Grade 8, the school opened earlier this year as a replacement for both Dr. H.D. Taylor and J.E. Benson schools.
West Gate is also home to a very popular breakfast program. Run by a team of community volunteers and teachers, a nutritious meal is served to more than 100 students every weekday morning.
Breakfast is not grab and go — it's a proper sit-down affair, complete with real plates and cutlery. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, a spread of cold cereal, milk and fruit is served. On Tuesday and Thursday, the kids get a hot meal - scrambled eggs and either pancakes or french toast, prepared by volunteers from St. Aidan's Community Church.
Strict nutritional guidelines are followed.
"We make sure that there's no trans fats [and] that sodium and sugars are kept to a certain level," says West Gate vice principal Anne Muzzin. "Our cereals have to have a certain amount of fibre. We always provide a fresh fruit or a vegetable. Our milk is one per cent ... and we have lots of protein."
Breakfast starts at 7:55 a.m. When the first school bus rolls in at 8 a.m., the dining area is a hurricane of activity. Class starts at 8:15 a.m., leaving a mere 15 minutes to eat. Despite the rush, the students are very well behaved, saying "thank you" to the teachers and volunteers serving them and neatly stacking their dirty plates in a bin to be cleaned.
Breakfast is open to every student at West Gate. This reduces any stigma that the meal is only for those from low-income families. Many kids prefer to eat their breakfast at school simply because they enjoy socializing with their friends. Tuesday and Thursday meals are especially busy because of the hot breakfast items.
Muzzin says the availability of a free, nutritious breakfast makes a huge difference at her school.
"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It gets brains ready to learn, it [keeps] tummies from grumbling — and it gets the children in a really happy place."
Want to help?
The breakfast program at West Gate Public School relies solely on donations and grants. If you'd like to contribute, call the school at (519) 252-7729.
Friday, during CBC Windsor's Sounds of the Season, a listener called the school to donate $1,000 after hearing about the program on Windsor Morning.