Breakfast Club of Canada has been a proud partner of Nanaimo-Ladysmith Schools Foundation (NLSF) since 2015. They do a phenomenal job of mobilizing community resources in their network and preparing food deliveries for schools through their food depot. In 2021–2022, the number of schools supported by BCC under NLSF reached 21, with an average of 1,291 students benefiting daily.
In December, two BCC staff members had a chance to visit this dedicated Vancouver Island partner. The day brought several exciting moments as they joined NLSF’s Executive Director, Crystal Dennison, to visit several school programs and the food depot. They learned about the organization’s incredible local impacts along the way.
The first stop was Bayview Elementary School, where the breakfast program is run by the principal, Stephanie Stephens, and an educational assistant, Naomi Lajeunesse. Naomi has a strong passion for student nutrition and enjoys cooking and baking. She shared that NLSF’s food delivery service is highly appreciated because she wouldn’t have the time to shop for her breakfast program otherwise. Naomi praised NLSF’s healthy food support and how responsive Crystal is. “Time is the only thing that I wish I could have more of for the breakfast program,” said Naomi during the visit, which showed how limited staff resources are for running a breakfast program and emphasized the value of NLSF’s food delivery services.
The next stop was to one of the most robust school meal programs supported by NLSF, at John Barsby Community School. The program serves both breakfast and lunch in addition to providing food to five feeder schools. It is supported by Holly Knox, culinary arts teacher, and 25 students from her cooking program. There are two breakfast options: a centralized grab-and-go station and a classroom order delivery model. For the latter, students order from the menu, and meals are delivered to each classroom by cooking program participants. Holly couldn’t help but tear up when talking about how NLSF has helped the school grow the program to where it is today. She also thanked BCC for their generous and continuous support of NLSF.
The final stop was NLSF’s food depot, where all the magic happens! The food depot is where food donations and bulk purchases are sorted, stored and distributed to schools across the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district. Tracy Gilbert, NSLF’s School Food Coordinator, is usually there to help load the Food4Schools delivery vehicle. She gave a fantastic tour of the depot — a bright and spacious area that is well equipped with both dry and cold storage. Healthy food products were neatly arranged on the shelves for easy sorting and retrieval. Surprisingly, Tracy is the only staff member coordinating food logistics and sorting deliveries at the depot, with occasional help from community members.
The depot and the schools visited are all a part of an innovative and impactful system created by Tracy and Crystal and supported by many others. The program used to be run out of Tracy and Crystal’s office until it was relocated to a storage unit and finally to this beautiful and well-organized location. The two have been consistently working side by side to extend the program impacts to more students and school communities.
When asked what the future looked like for NLSF’s Food4Schools program, Crystal shared that they hope the depot can grow into a fully functioning commercial kitchen, where they can cook and prepare food for participating schools. The schools benefit greatly from having food items delivered to them, but they still need to spend time preparing meals every morning. Crystal hopes that one day NLSF can take on that responsibility to free up even more time for educators to focus on teaching while the organization takes care of feeding the students.
This is all part of visualizing a future where all children can be fed equitably, and communities can rise together. BCC greatly appreciates NLSF’s dedication in running such an amazing food program and making the most of the resources and networks at their disposal to sustain quality breakfast programs for local school communities.
If you would like to learn more about NLSF’s Food4Schools program, you can visit their website at: https://www.nlsf.ca/food4schools/
If you are interested in John Barsby Community School’s meal program, be sure to watch this YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFkV2TANZ68