Elementary school breakfast program brings students together 1 year after Fort McMurray wildfire

Dr. K A Clark Public School's breakfast program is bringing students together one year after the Fort McMurray wildfire. Credit, Breakfast Club of Canada

What was meant to provide kids with a full belly to start off their school day on the right foot has turned into so much more for students at a Fort McMurray elementary school one year after a devastating wildfire ripped through the community.

Dr. K A Clark Public School in Fort McMurray suffered extensive smoke damage in last May’s wildfire. Seven staff members and several students lost their homes.

READ MORE: ‘The Beast’ is still burning east of Fort McMurray 1 year later

Staff and students were displaced for four months before returning to class in September 2016.

“We serve two of the most affected neighbourhoods in Fort McMurray and we knew that a lot of our students lost their homes or were displaced from their homes long-term, so we really didn’t know how many we would expect on that first day of school,” said principal Merrie-Rae Mitropoulos.

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The majority of the 400 students from the school returned in the fall, even those who moved away from the surrounding community.

“We really saw the resiliency in our students,” Mitropoulos said. “This is the place where they have their friends, they know their teachers and we have a real sense of community here.”

READ MORE: Fort McMurray children processing wildfire trauma: ‘I’m still not sleeping right’

One year later, that sense of community is thriving, even before class starts. The school offers a breakfast program, providing a meal to about 80 students each morning. But the principal says it does much more than that.

“Not only does it meet the needs of students that may not have breakfast at home or don’t have time for breakfast at home, it also meets that need of coming together, sitting with friends, having some time with the teacher and staff members who come in to visit and really spending that time together as a school community.”

READ MORE: Feelings of hope, uncertainty one year after Fort McMurray wildfire

The school started offering the breakfast program in 2015. Breakfast Club of Canada started providing funding for the program in January 2017, which included money for new dishes and supplies in order to offer a wider range of food options.

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