It is called the Wonder Kitchen.
Children finding it sign in, get a name tag and wash their hands. They are then served a nutritious breakfast.
The Giant’s Head Breakfast for Learning program is coordinated by Val Wright.
She, along with her team of 13 volunteers serve breakfast to more than 60 children every week.
They work out of a small room in the Giant’s Head Elementary School, complete with a kitchen area and a row of four long tables, placed end to end, with stools on each side. The program is in its 14th year.
“When it started it was for children who needed to have breakfast in the morning,” explained Wright. “Where the advancement has been, is in having the children’s emotional and social needs met.”
Often the Wonder Kitchen is a place where children can go to feel safe and to make connections with other children. Sometimes they just stop in to say hello to Wright and the volunteers.
“They come in to connect or tell us their story,” said Wright. “That is why it takes a village to raise a child. We are feeding the body with good healthy food, but we are also feeding the mind socially.”
Because Wright works under the umbrella of Breakfast for Learning B.C., she has to work very hard to adhere to their standards, rules and regulations.
One of the expectations is that the children learn about healthy eating and be involved in the menu planning.
Each breakfast served incorporates foods from all four food groups. Children are encouraged to share family recipes and to share their cultural foods with each other.
“If children ask for certain things and it is healthy I will bring it in,” said Wright. “We have even had broccoli.”
Although there is grant money given through the program itself, Wright relies on the community for support.
She explained that at one time she went out and made presentations to the different service groups and businesses. She no longer does that she said, because she has earned the credibility over the years and everyone can see the good that is being done.
She said local supporters of the program are very generous with donations of food and money.
In return Wright makes every effort to buy the breakfast foods locally.
“I want to keep the money here because the money comes from the community. That’s only fair,” she said.
Wright also makes sure to publicly thank the volunteers and supporters in her monthly newsletter and yearly in the Summerland Review.
The children too, express their appreciation for what they have received.
Wright draws up a thank you letter, consisting of reasons that the children themselves have come up with, as to why they are thankful. Each child signs the letter and it is sent out to those who have donated to the program.
There are also safety standards that must be met when feeding children.
Wright reads all ingredient labels carefully, making sure there are no peanuts in the products she serves. She herself has a first aid ticket and her volunteers have Food Save Certificates.
Wright values the volunteers who work with her every day.
“I am the tip of the umbrella, but we all work as a team. We are very blessed to have one another,” she said. “Everyone that starts keeps coming back every year. We have never had anyone quit on us.”
One of her volunteers, Shila Weaver, who is now in Grade 12, said, “I use to come here when I was in elementary school. I love coming back now.”
Wright appreciates the principal, vice principal and staff at the school as well. She said she has been given the freedom to run the program as she sees fit and thus is always looking for ways to make it better.
Her goals are to make the children feel safe and to nurture and guide them and to help them have the best day they possibly can.