As the 2020–2021 school year got underway, Saint-Coeur-de-Marie School was still short a site coordinator for its breakfast program.
Having just moved to Saint-Damien, Catherine Rixhon took advantage of the opportunity to get involved in the community and do something positive for the next generation through her twin passions of cooking and gardening. She loved the experience immediately and saw that she would be making a real difference in the day-to-day lives of students. But she was far from done contributing! She reached out to an organization that funds community health projects and secured a grant for the school, which was then used to start an initiative known as “Projet Écolimentaire.” The objective is to make locally grown foods more available to students. Part of the funding went toward procuring new appliances and accessories for the school kitchen. The school already had a seed planter, courtesy of the Municipality of Saint-Damien, which meant that everything was in place to allow students in every class to plant, grow and harvest a variety of fruits and vegetables in their community garden. Potatoes, kale, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, garlic and bell peppers are among the plants they proudly tend.
But what about potential food waste? No worries there! Catherine had yet another trick up her sleeve. She and seven other community recruits meet up twice a month to make and freeze healthy, delicious dishes like omelets, kale chips, muffins, breakfast cookies and smoothies to serve in the school’s breakfast program. It wasn’t long until parents were clamouring to join in on the fun. After all, helping out in the kitchen once or twice a month is easier for most than volunteering every day during school hours.
When asked about why she decided to take the lead on this project, Catherine credited her own sustainability-minded values. She is determined to reduce the quantity of individually packaged foods served at the school and focus on locally grown items. “If you want to change society, I think you have to start by educating children,” she says. That is why she is committed to piquing students’ curiosity by exposing them to different combinations of fresh, healthy foods and encouraging them to talk about what they like and how each food is unique. In addition, twice a week, she delivers special announcements over the school’s PA system about healthy eating and the environment. It’s a great way to raise awareness about nutrition and food waste among students and staff alike. As a result, composting has gradually worked its way into the school’s routine practices.
Even if she doesn’t consider herself to be a morning person, Catherine is delighted and honoured to be involved in the school’s breakfast program. “I’m always raring to get to the school in the morning. The breakfast program has put a little extra pep into my life!”