J.C. Charyk Hanna School is the only school in Prairie Land Regional Division No. 25 to feature a full service concession serving breakfast, lunch, and fresh made snacks throughout the day to students. This wasn’t always the case. Formerly a cafeteria, what is now our concession had become run down and fallen out of use.
Over a decade ago, then principal Mr. Cam McKeage made the decision to reopen the old cafeteria as a concession serving healthy food choices to school students and staff. It has been running steadily ever since, seeing several remodels and an expansion or two along the way (the current seating area used to be a classroom).
Ashlyn McCormick: How did you become involved with running the concession?
Bridget Benoit: In 2004 the concession was not being used and Mr. McKeage wanted the area to be utilized, so he asked school council if they were interested in running a healthy kitchen. I was among those brought on at the start. I love to cook, so it was a great opportunity to feed the children healthy food and it also allowed me to [become] healthier, too.
BB: Every day I go shopping in town to see what is fresh and on sale. It is very important that we buy local. The stores in town are very supportive of our program.
AM: Is it true that you grow a bunch of your own spices?
AM: In the past we have had to be careful in class and on field trips because some of the students had severe allergies to things like peanuts. I am sure this is a huge problem for you. How do you deal with this?
BB: Educate, educate, educate. We are given a list of the children that have severe allergies and we try very hard to let them know if there is an ingredient that they cannot have. The world outside of school is not peanut free, so it’s very important children who have allergies are educated on always asking what is in a food they are going to eat.
AM: I often see students working in your kitchen. Are they school employees or maybe work experience students?
BB: The students that are working at the kitchen are mostly volunteers, but some do their work experience in there as well.
AM: What is your favourite item on your menu?
BB: I love to do breakfast at lunch. We live in a very fast times, sometimes breakfast is the last thing on our minds, so I love to make pancakes, waffles, even bacon for lunch.
AM: Do you still feel like cooking when you get home from work at JCC, or are you like, “Swanson’s turkey with Tator Tots sounds good?!?”
BB: Not all the time, but we are very lucky that our grocery stores make wonderful salads ready to take home, and, of course, you can’t beat rotisserie chicken!
Mrs. Benoit has certainly been successful at establishing the concession as a point of pride for J.C. Charyk School in the eleven years she has worked there. She has not only made it a place to find quality, affordable meals, but something more than just a place to eat. You can tell from the happy crowds at meal times that the concession has become the heart of JCC. We are very lucky to have the concession AND Mrs. Benoit.