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At Strathcona School, they’re known
as the Baking Circle; at Shaughnessy Park School, students simply call them
“The Baking Ladies.”
But despite the informal names, the
small army of bakers that provides snacks to both schools is a highly organized
operation that involves volunteers from across Winnipeg. Dozens of bakers are
donating their time—and ingredients—to keep students well fed.
“I’m just passionate about baking,”
said Arlisa Greco, a Technical Solutions Manager for IBM Canada who started the
baking circle at Strathcona nine years ago. “And I’ve become pretty good at
Ms. Greco connected with Strathcona
through a neighbor who was volunteering to read with students at the school.
The neighbour had noticed that some students were coming to school hungry.
“She recognized that students
couldn’t focus if they were hungry,” Ms. Greco said. “I said I would bake
weekly for her when she was volunteering…I did that for the rest of the school
year. But then I started thinking that I knew a lot of people who like to bake,
and if I organized my likeminded friends, maybe we could do more.”
The baking crew has grown over the
years to a rotation of 75 volunteers who provide snacks for Strathcona’s
Nursery to Grade 2 students. One of the bakers, Khalie Jackson-Davis, has helped
the circle expand to include Shaughnessy Park School; she coordinates
approximately 30 volunteer bakers for the second school.
“I do less baking now that I’m
coordinating,” said Ms. Jackson-Davis, who is also a Reading Clinician with St.
James School Division. “Thanks to Arlisa, I have a very nice spreadsheet that I
plot in and figure out the entire year for each baker. I send them their
schedule at the start of the year.”
Teachers pick up the baked goods on
a weekly or semi-weekly basis. The Strathcona operation is so large that Ms.
Greco even has depot houses to collect baking from different areas of the city.
“Sometimes there’s so much you
can’t fit it all in your car,” she said.
The baking circles also go beyond
the staples of muffins and other treats.
“Sometimes people aren’t able to
bake, so they’ll send in fresh fruit, yogurt, cheese and crackers, granola bars
or other healthy snacks for the kids,” Ms. Jackson-Davis said.
Shaughnessy Park teacher Kristen
Mitchell said the snacks have proven tremendously popular amongst students at
“The students are always asking and
trying to figure out what we’re having for snack on a given day,” Ms. Mitchell
said. “They’re exposed to foods they might not get at home. They may have never
heard of a cranberry and now they’re getting cranberry muffins.”
Students are raving about
everything from muffins to squares to cookies.
“They are the best bakers ever, I
like when they bake banana chocolate chip muffins,” said Adrian, a Shaughnessy
“I like when they bake us treats at
Christmas,” said another Shaughnessy Park student, Shanelle. “It was so tasty
that my whole family ate it in one day.”
Those kinds of rave reviews are
what keep the bakers hard at work in their respective kitchens.
“It’s important that the bakers
hear those stories and get the feedback,” Ms. Greco said. “You want them to
keep feeling inspired.”
The other reason for continuing the
volunteer effort is simple.
“The reason for the program
existing is that kids are hungry…and I can make a difference. As long as there
is a need, we’ll keep going,” Ms. Greco said.
For more information on volunteering in WSD, please visit here.