Thanks to overwhelming community response, the Penticton Breakfast Club will continue providing critical morning meals to hungry students. According to Joni Cutler who manages three of the four schools served by the PBC, the response to the organization’s plea for volunteers was overwhelming. A local journalism initiative story first appeared on the front page of the Sept. 6 edition of The Herald and was soon picked up by several local news sites. “Surprised? I was absolutely blown away. I was hoping for maybe 10 responses but between the emails, phone calls and texts it was well over 100,” said Cutler who was busy helping prep the morning meal Wednesday at Columbia Elementary School. “Right now I’m just trying to get back to all of them, I don’t want them to think we don’t need them.” Recently there were concerns the program would have to be cut back due to the shortage of volunteers, only having about 40 people signed up at the start of this month. The PBC serves about 600 meals a week on each school day of the week, including 70 breakfasts alone daily at Queen’s Park Elementary School.
Other schools served by the volunteer organization are West Bench Elementary and the school district’s ConnectEd continuing education program. “People said they didn’t realize it was that hard to get volunteers or ‘I was thinking about it or I could definitely do that now, so just let me know whenever and wherever I can help,’” said Cutler. “Others said how important the program is and it has really helped a lot of people, it’s such a worthwhile thing.” Someone who sees first hand how important and needed the service is, is Columbia principal Trevor Robinson. “They (PBC volunteers) do really great work for us,” he said. “It’s so important for a lot of our kids, it provides them with a hot, nutritious breakfast every morning. “Certainly there are some kids where it really makes a difference and you can tell when they get that breakfast and when they get that routine of going to it, it starts their day on a much better foot.” The program is open to every student which is important., Robinson said. “The students come to us and we don’t know if they’ve eaten and for some of them the issue is not that they don’t have food at home, but their busy schedule in the morning. Here at the school they have a bit more time.” The club exists thanks to the efforts of many individuals and organizations like the Penticton Speedway Foundation, which provides substantial funding for PBC.
Mark Brett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Penticton Herald