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‘If their tummies are full, their brains are more ready for learning’: Altona seniors bake goods for school breakfast program

A group of Altona seniors have given rise to a tasty school breakfast program.

They are known in their community as the Buffalo Bakers – named after the Buffalo Apartments senior complex where they live.

The ladies assist Ecole Elmwood School by baking fresh goods, such as muffins, bread, energy bites and cinnamon buns, which are then provided to students as part of its free ‘Breakfast Club.’

“If their tummies are full, their brains are more ready for learning,” said Robin Martens, vice principal and Grade 3 teacher at Ecole Elmwood School.

Around 15 to 25 students take advantage of the daily program.

“It provides students an opportunity to come in to start their day with some nutritious food. All students are welcome to come. Some students come because they’re hungry in the morning. Some… just as a soft start for their day, and like to just connect with some friends or some adults…So it serves both purposes.”

The pairing began when the school administration was brainstorming ways to incorporate home baking into its program. Martens said she thought of her mom, Ann Friesen, who is one of the residents of the Buffalo Apartments, which is located right behind the school.

“A lot of her friends over there, they’re always kind of looking for something to do, and so we approached them. I approached my mom to see if there would be some interest. And she said they were quite interested, and so they got together a little group, and they meet maybe once a month…and provide some fresh baking for us during that time.”

The volunteer group consists of five ladies – and they are always looking to elevate the menu.

“When they get together, they work on planning the menu,” said Martens. “They’re always searching for new items that they want to add it…It’s a great social time for the ladies… and they have a lot of fun…thinking about what they’re going to serve. They also have a commercial kitchen over there at the Buffalo.”

Another component of the relationship involves the ever-popular Grilled Cheese Day.

“My mom and some of the ladies will ahead of time prepare grilled cheese sandwiches, and then warm them up the morning of, and my mom will come in and volunteer on that morning. She’s known as the ‘grilled cheese lady.’ And the kids are always so excited about that day. You’ll hear them say, ‘We’ve been waiting for this day all week.’ It’s just a great opportunity for them to also connect with someone outside of our school,” said Martens.

As for what the future holds for the relationship, the school is hoping to get additional bakers involved to continue building intergenerational bonds within the community.

“In the future, we’re hoping to try to get more of the ladies from the Buffalo Bakers to come in and volunteer. It would be just a great connection piece for the kids to be able to connect with more of the seniors in our community,” said Martens.

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