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Ruby Doucette volunteers with Breakfast for Learning PEI

Difference Engines
by Nina Linton

Ruby Doucette (photo: Nina Linton)Separating the halves of a bagel, Ruby Doucette drops them in an industrial toaster as two crispy pieces slide out the other end. She collects the done dough and adds it to a mound of other toasted O’s in a tray, as she prepares for the arrival of her hungry regulars.

Two mornings a week Ruby Doucette is up and out the door to Charlottetown’s Prince Street Elementary School, where for the past four years she has lent her time to Breakfast for Learning PEI, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to child nutrition. “I really think it is a great program and I enjoy the little ones and it is just, fulfilling. I guess you could put it that way.”

Over the 2008/ 2009 school year 500 volunteers like Doucette operated 46 child nutrition programs across the Island, serving 4521 children and youth with filling morning meals to keep students energized and engaged in class. “I think that it is very important that they have a good meal to start their day. Even myself if I get up that is one of the first things I have to do is to have a bagel or have an English muffin, or toast. I just starts their day and I think it gives them a better attitude when they go to the classroom.”

Working alongside two or three other dedicated volunteers each Tuesday and Thursday during the school semester, Doucette feels good knowing that not only do the 50 odd children she serves have a full belly going to class but they are getting some much needed social interaction in lieu of a breakfast at home. “It gives the kids an opportunity to sit down and probably have a chat with another friend that they wouldn’t ordinarily have time to, they would just come and go to their classes and I think it is a very friendly thing along with nutritional value.”

Running the program five days a week, Breakfast for Learning PEI puts emphasis on the vital link between good nutrition and learning, giving students the fuel they need to get off to a bright start each day, improving their memory, problem-solving skills, and creative abilities through being well-nourished.

Enjoying her time working with the children, Doucette reveals she was impressed by the politeness the youngster show towards her and the other volunteers. Last year the children even put on a special concert for the Breakfast for Learning volunteers. “I enjoy every minute of it,” says Doucette. “And if it was something that I didn’t think was doing any good than I would have moved on to something else.”

She originally signed up because she was looking for something to do after retiring, what began as a way to fill the hours has quickly become a highlight in her week. “I just love it. Those two days for me during the winter are special days. When I come home probably at 9 or 9:15 I feel so good inside because you have done something for somebody, even if it was just making them a piece of toast.”

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