PENTICTON - Starving is no way to start a school day. Children should be worried about their grades and not about when their next meals are coming from.
Volunteers with the Breakfast Learning Club work hard to make that happen but even they can fall short when volunteers vanish due to vacations or other commitments.
Meals on Wheels co-ordinators Sandra Henderson and Judy Jefferies, who oversee the Meals on Wheels and the learning club program, said volunteer drivers and servers are in short supply. If volunteers drop out program co-ordinators scramble to find ways to replace them, even if it's just temporary.
Volunteers who sign up for the school program can expect to put hot bowls of cereal, toast and waffles in the hands of kids who would go without due to low income or parents who work two jobs and have no time to set the breakfast table. Those bowls would still be in the cupboard if there weren't volunteers to fill and serve them.
Henderson said three volunteers are needed at Columbia Elementary School, West Bench Elementary and Queen's Park Elementary School each to run the free five-day-a-week program.
School staff noticed significant changes shortly after the program's inception. Henderson said there is less tendency for bullying and students pay more attention in class.
"The parents are also surprised," she said. They have been told by their children they'll eat stuff at school they won't touch at home.
The breakfast program also serves as a morning social hub. Children who have already eaten food at home will join their friends in this "family atmosphere", have juice and chat about the important matters of the day.
The same social interaction is also what's delivered by the Meals on Wheels program.
"A lot of drivers do stop and chat with (clients)," Henderson said. "It is a social visit for a lot of our clients and for some persons this is the only person they get to see all week."
Drivers are needed to continue to fill bellies in Penticton, Okanagan Falls and Naramata especially during the holidays.
Henderson explained there are more than just retired seniors looking for a hot meal. Some clients are temporary ones as they are waiting for injuries to heal.
"We have quite a variety of people. We don't keep (patients) in the hospital anymore because they can recuperate better at home than in strange surroundings."
She said imagine trying to prepare dinner with a broken right arm when you're right-handed.
Drivers are mostly retirees but a few still work and squeeze their volunteering in and around their normal work hours. Six routes are driven three times a week and on Wednesday salad accompanies each meal.
For those interested in this or serving hot food to children at schools can call 250-492-9095. Meals on Wheels volunteers will take an orientation session at Penticton Regional Hospital or at the school they'll be serving food at. Both programs will need volunteers completing free police record checks.
To contact a reporter for this story, to send photos or videos, email Shannon Quesnel at email@example.com, call 250-488-3065, tweet @shannonquesnel1 or @InfoNewsPentict