A North Shuswap community is working together to ensure its young students have healthy meals at school.
Sabrina Byerly is the parent advisory council (PAC) chair of North Shuswap Elementary, a K-8 school in Celista. She said the school’s hot lunch program has been running for years.
There’s a new twice-a-week hot breakfast program in town, being taken care of by local business Sunnyside Supermarket. Sunnyside also provides sandwiches for students on Mondays and a hot lunch once per month.
Sunnyside isn’t the only local market involved, as Byerley said the Scotch Creek Market also supports the school with hot lunches.
“We have support throughout our community, so many different places support the program,” said Byerley, mentioning the food bank and North Shuswap Lions Club.
Between the Lions, food bank, Scotch Creek Market, Sunnyside Market and PAC fundraising, its ensured there’s a free hot lunch for students every week, said Byerley.
“It’s just amazing… no kid gets left behind,” she said. “PAC’s in the past and the school have put this all into place… we’re able to continue and it has a lot to do with the support from the community.”
Ann-Marie Hampel bought Sunnyside Market with her husband Brad in July 2021. Before that, she was a principal at a school in Chase, and noticed some students were coming in hungry.
“If you’re hungry, you’re not learning because all you’re doing is focusing on your stomach,” said Hampel.
Since North Shuswap Elementary is right across the road from Sunnyside, when it opened in August Hampel said she approached its principal and said she could help.
Hampel started a fundraiser at her store where people could donate their change. Local farmers chipped in, donating produce which Hampel then sold by donation to the school breakfast/lunch program. She believes in using all local ingredients and making healthy, filling food for students from scratch.
Hampel said her local suppliers have been a great help to the school breakfast/lunch program with donations. One day, she made egg bites for the students’ breakfast.
“So each kid got a muffin cup that has ham and egg and cheese in it. So it’s something that’s hearty, it’s protein,” said Hampel. “It’s something they need, good fuel for them to get through the day.”
Hampel speaks fondly of her community and how it works together.
“The parents association is phenomenal. Everything is by donation, everything is by fundraisers… there’s no cost to the parent at all, which I think is phenomenal.”