The holidays are perhaps the best time to be thank our donors and highlight what a difference they make in helping children reach their full potential. It is also a great season for Breakfast Club of Canada to look back on all that has been accomplished and think about all the work that still needs to be done. Cargill understood many years ago that food insecurity is a major problem in Canada.
BCC Foundations and Corporate Partnerships Advisor Catherine Tremblay comments: “as a partner of the Club for over 10 years, Cargill’s vision is very much aligned with our organization’s. Cargill is committed to nutrition and to improving food insecurity in our communities and making a real difference. The company believes that all children should have access to nutritious food for growth and learning, and that nutrition education that builds healthy eating habits at an early age is a priority!”
A purpose for connection
For over 150 years, Cargill has remained true to the vision of William Wallace Cargill when he acquired a grain warehouse in 1865: helping farmers prosper, connecting markets and bringing consumers the products they are seeking. Known as one of Canada’s largest merchandisers and processors of meat and oilseed, the company is also involved in crop product retailing and grain handling and milling for a whole range of food possibilities.
“Our purpose is to nourish the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way. Every day, we connect farmers with markets, customers with ingredients, people and animals with the food they need to thrive” explains Alayna Hoy, Global Communications Specialist at Cargill.
A path very close to Breakfast Club of Canada who operates locally, in neighbourhoods across Canada, connecting people and communities around a common cause. While Cargill combines its experience with new technologies and insights to serve as a trusted partner in more than 125 countries, it supports the club’s program in Canada to ensure that the next generation has access to nutritious food so children can succeed in school and in life, one breakfast at a time.
Bringing sustainable nutrition solutions
“From the beginning, Cargill has always been committed to community engagement. It’s core to who we are. We work with partners across borders to improve sustainability, food security and nutrition.”
In 2021, Cargill provided $110.5 million in total charitable contributions in 56 countries to support communities. Cargill businesses and employee-led groups partner with local civic, non-profit and non-governmental organizations on programs and projects that improve food security and nutrition; support human rights, equity and inclusion.
A perfect match with Breakfast club of Canada who reaches more than half a million children in 3,362 programs throughout Canada. Thanks to a dedicated network of private and public supporters such as Cargill – BCC is able to gather resources and get closer to a common dream: feeding all Canadian children and make sure they have an equal chance to learn.
Recipe by Anick Lamothe – Une mère poule un peu dingue
It may be better to give than to receive — but not necessarily when it comes to this hearty and filling soup.
Yield: 6 to 8 jars | Preparation time: 15 minutes | Cooking time: 1 hour
- ½ c. (125 mL) brown lentils
- ½ c. (125 mL) dried mixed vegetable flakes
- ¼ c. (60 mL) rice
- ¼ c. (60 mL) pearl barley
- ¼ c. (60 mL) spelt
- ½ c. (125 mL) sundried tomatoes, cut in thin strips*
- ¼ c. (60 mL) vegetable bouillon powder
- 2 Tbsp. (30 mL) torula nutritional yeast
- 2 Tbsp. (30 mL) mixed Italian herbs
*Do not use oil-packed tomatoes for this recipe!
- 10 c. (2.5 L) water
- 1 28 oz (796 mL) diced Italian tomatoes
- Spread the lentils out evenly at the bottom of a mason jar, then continue layering with the vegetable flakes, rice, barley, spelt, dried tomatoes, bouillon powder, nutritional yeast and Italian herbs for a striped effect. Seal the jar and keep upright.
- To make the soup, pour the contents of the jar into a stock pot. Add the water and diced tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.
At Ste-Thérèse School, located in St-Honoré-de-Shenley (Qc), a teacher had the idea of involving the students of his grade six class in the breakfast club and now they are the ones who manage the entire program for their school! Here is a discussion with the students and Frédéric Leclerc, a teacher who dared and succeeded!
What made you step in and take over the coordination of the breakfast program at your school?
Students: Breakfast Club of Canada has been an important part of our school for a long time. We have always had volunteers to make the meals every morning, and some years we had a bunch of people signing up. It’s a true need in our school community. Lots of kids don’t eat breakfast or don’t get the chance to start their day off with something healthy. There are also plenty of students who’d come to school without anything to snack on, and they’d ask for something because they were hungry. With COVID and all the changes it has brought, we barely had anybody volunteering this year. And we didn’t want to take the risk of losing the breakfast program. Something had to be done, and our teacher had the crazy idea that maybe we could take over!
What gave you the idea to get the students involved?
Frédéric: I’m a teacher who tries to do things a little differently. I like it when students are really involved in their own learning. I want things to be hands-on and inspired by day-to-day realities, and I want them to make connections with everything they learn. My teaching is based on the deep learning method. We use things that happen in real life to get students engaged in their learning. These are opportunities for them to realize how important some things are. We work on them in the classroom and then turn them into a project. So there was an opportunity there to put the students in charge of the breakfast program, and quite frankly it has been a huge success.
What made you agree to get involved?
Students: We wanted to do something good for the school without receiving anything in return. Helping make sure our friends and other students get breakfast in the morning, can try new foods, eat healthy and have access to good snacks… We can a learn a lot from this, and what we learn will stay with us all our lives.
What kind of responsibilities do you have?
Students: With the Club, we’ve learned a bunch of new things. We’ve learned how to work together, even with people we weren’t necessarily used to working with. We’ve learned to do a lot more on our own. This project pushes us to try new things and, if worse comes to worst, make mistakes! We’ve also gotten better at public speaking because we have to explain what’s on the menu, how the Club works, announce new things and other stuff every day. The teachers have been surprised by what we’ve accomplished. They didn’t think we could handle it all. Some people go in early to wash the fruit and get the food out we need. They take things out of the freezer for the next day. They also sanitize the work stations, check the fridge temperatures and make sure everything is OK. We have two-student teams assigned to each classroom. We take the food and place it in the bin, and then we hand it out in the classroom. We go back around 9 a.m. and pick up whatever’s left and put it back in the fridge, in the box or in the cupboard. Then we rinse out whatever’s recyclable, and we take it to the recycling bins outside.
We take inventory once a month and fill out an order form for whatever we need and send it to the Club’s coordinator. We also have to phone in our milk order, and when it gets here students make sure we rotate what we have so nothing gets wasted. It’s the same for our big food orders. One team unpacks everything while another checks to make sure all the items are there. Then another team checks the expiry dates and rotates everything. We have to be very careful and follow all the food safety rules. Frédéric showed us how to wash our hands the right way and how they do it in restaurants. Plus, we have a budget to follow, and we have to calculate the taxes and look for sales when we buy groceries. We handle all the money and make sure that the cashier gives us the right change. With all this to take care of, we’ve had to find solutions and ways to make it work. We’ve learned how to manage it and this’ll be totally important later on, in math class and in our everyday life when we’re planning a meal for our friends or a big party or something.
How have the students reacted? Were they into the whole idea from the beginning?
Frédéric: They’ve never been more motivated, and I can use this in the classroom too. If you want to be involved in the breakfast program, you have to do whatever’s expected of you in class. It works out really well. The kids love doing it, and even when I give them other duties, they take them and ask for more! I’m also starting to look at them in a whole new light. Some kids who struggle academically really shine in this project.
How have you had a positive impact on your school’s breakfast program?
Students: The program is doing really well, and students are eating a healthy breakfast every morning, and that’s because of us. They all get a snack and they love that. We are introducing them to new foods and we’re giving without expecting to get anything back. We’re helping out and enjoying our own breakfast at school too. We have even had to start placing bigger orders, because the kids at school are eating it all up every morning. The bins come back empty. It’s so cool!
What kind of advice would you give to teachers or program leads to encourage them to get students involved in their breakfast programs?
Frédéric: You just have to jump in with both feet. Don’t overthink it. Once you’re into it, you’ll be able to sidestep the obstacles you run into along the way. You can’t plan for every problem, but the important thing is to stay flexible. For example, if the extra waste the program generates overloads your dumpster, you might want to step up your recycling efforts. You have to be prepared to invest lots of time at the start. A month into it, I can now let them do more on their own. They make mistakes, and that’s only natural. They’re kids, and that’s what kids do. But they learn, and that’s the beauty of it. You also have to be prepared to push a little. Making a change, doing something different, that always shakes things up a little. I’m doing this for the kids, so they can learn and want to come to school, for it to be meaningful to them. Sometimes you can’t let a few negative comments or criticisms stop you.
You have to be bold and think big! And why not?
The festive season is almost upon us and what better way to celebrate than with lots of yummy food! Strata casseroles are perfect for this time of year since they can be made in big batches the day before and customized to what you have on hand. This comforting recipe is also the perfect way to use up any leftovers you may have (bread, fruits, veggies, milk, cheese) before schools close for the holidays!
This recipe has been adapted from OnceUponAChef.com| Servings : 8 to 10
- 1 lb (454 g) chopped frozen spinach, thawed and thoroughly drained
- 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 c. (2 L) whole wheat bread, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes (about 11 slices)
- 2 (500 mL) grated cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, feta — whatever cheese you’d like!)
- 9 large eggs
- 2¾ c. (680 mL) milk, milk alternative or half-and-half
- 1 tsp. (5 mL) salt
- ¾ tsp. (3.75 mL) black pepper
- ¼ (1.25 mL) ground nutmeg
- 2 Tbsp. (30 mL) Dijon mustard(optional)
- Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and drained spinach, and cook 2 minutes more. Set aside.
- Grease a 9′ x 13′ (23 cm x 33 cm) baking dish. Spread a third of the bread cubes in the dish and top evenly with a third of the onion-spinach mixture. Sprinkle with a third of the cheese. Repeat layering twice, ending with cheese.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the milk, salt, pepper, nutmeg and Dijon (if using) and whisk until well combined. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the strata. Cover the strata with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.
- When ready to cook, preheat oven to 325°F (160°C). Bake the strata, uncovered, until puffed, set and golden brown all over top, 70–75 minutes. Let stand 10–15 minutes before serving.
Try customizing this recipe by substituting different vegetables for the spinach (roasted squash cubes, steamed broccoli, chopped peppers). You can also try experimenting with a sweet variation by skipping the onion, garlic, cheese and mustard and adding in:
- 3 sliced bananas, ½ c. pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, ⅓ sugar
- 3 sliced apples, ½ c. raisins, ⅓ c. brown sugar
In Back-to-School open house sessions across Canada, participants shared some of the challenges they faced in breakfast programming for this school year. Our team has compiled top ideas and suggestions provided by fellow schools in response to topics like incorporating volunteers, reducing costs and facilitating meal preparation. The open house sessions are very valuable as they provide solutions from and for diverse school communities and contexts.
We are thankful for all who participated in knowledge sharing and hope we’ve adequately captured your tips, as follows:
- Leveraging community groups as volunteers: Various schools have explored engaging community groups such as the local RCMP, faith groups, businesses or sports teams to help with different aspects of breakfast program planning, including purchasing, delivery, meal prepping and packaging. Consider this if your school regulations allow for external volunteers.
- Working with nearby high schools: Is there a high school close to you? One school provided a unique suggestion to partner with a high school. The older students prepare and package meals and then walk them over in the morning and drop them off at the school entrance. High school students can apply this experience toward volunteer hours or as a special project for a food safety and food education class. This is a good solution for schools that are not allowed to have extra volunteers in their food prep areas.
- Using student volunteers in a community service program: Some of our schools that are allowed to work with student volunteers have chosen to include breakfast programming prep work as a part of students’ community service hours. This helps students give back to their community, hone leadership skills and ease the stress on program coordinators. For an example of this idea in action, check out our newsletter article for a story about student volunteers at Georges P. Vanier School.
- Engaging staff members: Consider holding a staff meeting to gauge whether your staff are willing and have the time to help. With restrictions in place in many schools, dedicated staff members have stepped in to run the breakfast program instead of volunteers. One school started an “above and beyond” club with opportunities for staff to pitch in in extra areas of need, including breakfast program prep and delivery. Other schools have assigned breakfast club responsibilities to staff on a weekly rotating basis. A pair of staff members can take care of prep, delivery and clean-up one week and then hand over the reins to a different pair the next. Having more staff members involved can help spread the work around.
- Tip: To help keep staff motivated and feel appreciated, consider hosting a special thank-you breakfast on a non-instructional day or incorporating breakfast program responsibilities into their workable hours.
Reduced prep work
For those of you who are prevented from having extra help due to COVID restrictions, an alternative is to focus on reducing the amount of work required to prepare, serve and clean up after breakfast:
- Some schools that used to bake muffins now make smaller “muffin bars.” You can make more bars with fewer ingredients, and the tray is a lot easier to wash than a muffin tin. Spread your favourite muffin batter on a baking tray that is well greased or lined with parchment paper or a silicone sheet. Baking times may vary, depending on the thickness of the batter. You’ll find lots of recipes for muffin bars online.
- Similarly, some schools make oven-baked oatmeal pancakes on a baking sheet and slice them into single servings. They are easy to pour, flip and serve, and they save a lot of time.
- It was suggested that students bring in their own containers, cutlery and bottles and wash them at home to reduce clean-up time for schools. This also cuts down on disposable waste and can save money for schools who had been using paper plates and plastic cutlery.
- Some schools recommended having students wash their own dishes in the classroom before returning them to the kitchen. This can save on time and effort, especially for schools with limited dishwashing capacity.
- Financial support programs may be able to help seek out an independent or wholesale grocer in your community for produce like berries and vegetables. Independent grocers are sometimes able to offer lower prices on locally grown foods. A school in Cochrane, Alberta, found this to be very cost-effective for their breakfast program, which serves hundreds of students.
- Buying large items like blocks of cheese and dividing them into smaller servings is often more budget-friendly than buying individual portions like cheese strings.
- Enquire about available discounts for school breakfast programs at grocery stores.
- Stretch every dollar you spend and reduce food waste by sending leftover food home with students or offering them an end-of-day snack as the exit the building.
We recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to cover such a diverse range of schools across the country, but we do hope that you can use one or two of these suggestions to make your breakfast program easier to run this year. Once again, we send out a huge thanks to everyone who participated in our back-to-school open house sessions and shared their innovative solutions with their peers. Your engagement, insight and support are greatly appreciated. We hope to hear more of your tried-and-true hacks and solutions at other sessions later in the year!
We are pleased to bring you these printable holiday greeting cards.
They’re a heartwarming way to let your friends, workmates and volunteers know how important they are to you all year along.