Renée Rathjen and her daughter Ivy, four, at the Willoughby Elementary breakfast Friday. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Renée Rathjen and her daughter Ivy, four, at the Willoughby Elementary breakfast Friday. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Family breakfast draws hundreds to Willoughby Elementary

Hakam’s Independent Grocer provided food for hundreds of kids and parents Friday

Hundreds of parents and kids turned out Friday morning for a free breakfast at Willoughby Elementary, hosted by a local grocery store.

This is the second year Hakam Cheema, owner of Hakam’s Independent Grocer, has hosted the event for students and families.

“Make sure we’re feeding their minds before they go to school,” Cheema said of his reason for starting the program.

Families lined up for bagels, cereal, fresh fruit, and coffee for adults, then sat down to eat and chat.

Last year’s crowd was good, but this year’s were much larger, Cheema noted.

There were about 250 to 300 children, but they were prepared to feed 500 or more, Cheema said.

The event is about more than breakfast, said Willoughby Elementary principal Phillis Giovanni.

“Willoughby has a massive catchment,” she noted. It used to serve the whole of the Willoughby area, and still covers the largest region even as other schools have opened.

“It’s hard to pull a community together when it’s really spread out,” she said.

That makes the annual breakfasts one of the school’s opportunities for community building.

There are more than 530 students at Willoughby Elementary – more than double the number that attended there five years ago.

The breakfast, which took place from 7:45 to 8:45 a.m., included younger kids who may be future students at Willoughby Elementary as well, Giovanni noted.

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Hakam Cheema of Hakam’s Indpendent Grocer, next door to Willoughby Elementary, provided the breakfast. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Hakam Cheema of Hakam’s Indpendent Grocer, next door to Willoughby Elementary, provided the breakfast. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)