Adult and child holding hands

Breakfast programs: a great source of motivation for kids!

A breakfast program provides kids with more than just a nutritious meal at the start of the school day. It also has a positive effect on their families’ morning routines. With the first day of school rapidly approaching, many parents are happy and relieved that their children will once again be spending a portion of each weekday morning with the Club.

“It’s a wonderful idea,” says one mother, whose 9-year-old attends Armand-Lavergne School. “And it makes our mornings as a family so much more pleasant.” She is not the only one who feels that way.

According to a study conducted by Breakfast Club of Canada in partnership with HEC Montréal’s marketing department, 75% of parents asked felt that their mornings had become less stressful and easier to manage since their child joined a breakfast program. A full 50% of respondents said that their child did not eat at home because they weren’t hungry, wanted to sleep more or ran out of time. Parents also noticed that their children were coming home with a taste for new foods. The Club makes a point of varying its menus to include less common food items, allowing students to broaden their palates.

Parents aren’t the only ones looking forward to the start of breakfast programs. Kids are excited too.

Amina, a former Club member and volunteer, says that “it’s a lot more than putting breakfast on the table. It’s more about having a safe place to go in your community and it doesn’t matter why you need breakfast or why you’re coming to the Breakfast Club. All that matters is that you’re there, you have your breakfast that you need and you have a loving place you can go to, a safe environment, a welcoming environment.”

A Quebec boy who volunteers in his breakfast program says that, for him, “it’s like a little family, because we’re here every morning and we eat breakfast together.”

“Every school should have [a breakfast program],” declared the mother of a 6-year-old at Saint-Zotique School. We do our utmost to serve communities and listen to our members. We work hard to give as many children as possible access to a breakfast program.

Our heartfelt thanks go to all the parents and children who place their trust in us every morning.

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Chairs stacked up on desks with a blurred background of a classroom

Excitement is in the air as the first day of school approaches! For the kids, of course, but also for the staff. And there’s no better time for us to show our appreciation for the teachers, school administrators and other employees who engage with students every day and play a key role in the success of their schools’ breakfast programs. Some open the doors and set up the room, even before the volunteers arrive. Others greet the kids or chat with them while they eat. Still others work on the behind-the-scenes logistics of running this sort of program in an educational institution. Each person’s contribution is essential to the success of the program and the kids who rely on it.

“A girl in Grade 2 sees our breakfast program as a home now, where she is respected, belongs and taken care of,” explains Sarah Dropko, a teacher at Manitoba’s Hazelridge School. “In the past, the little girl would come to school tired, hungry, and unwilling to focus and learn. Now, she comes in each morning knowing she is going to have breakfast and friends to sit and talk to.”

At Lawrence Sinclair Memorial School in Manitoba, teacher Sharon Hansen says that the students “are withdrawn because of empty bellies. We, as a school staff, are very grateful that Breakfast Club of Canada is here provide the funds to feed our students so that they can enjoy the day in school.”

According to Stasia Uhlmann, a teacher at West Central High School in Alberta, “a 15-year-old boy with autism was drawn to our breakfast table, and for the first few months of school he’d just watch and shake his head if he was offered anything. Over time, he became more and more willing to come to get a piece of fruit or a yogurt, and now, he is not only a regular attender, but also volunteers every morning.”

Many educators have seen the benefits of a breakfast program in their schools.

Samantha Johnson teaches nutrition at Chilliwack Middle School in B.C. She reports seeing “a vast improvement in student focus and retention in class because students have been able to fuel their body with breakfast.”

At Henderson Elementary School in B.C., teacher Nicole Burnett has found that “the children are much calmer and better prepared for their day when they sit down and enjoy breakfast together before the day begins.”

Of 41 schools surveyed by the Club six months after the launch of their breakfast program, a full 50% saw an improvement in attentiveness in class. The number of interventions needed to address behavioural issues also dropped by 71%.

Everyone at Breakfast Club of Canada would like to thank you for all your hard work and commitment to your school’s breakfast program. To all teachers, school administrators and other staff members, we wish you a wonderful back-to-school season.

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Pinwheel with blurred background of a classroom

For the Club, the back-to-school season is an important time of year. After a summer dedicated to developing new food distribution routes and updating the documentation on our breakfast programs, fall is when it all comes together.

A total of 243,521 Canadian children will soon be welcomed with open arms by kind-hearted volunteers in 1,809 breakfast programs across the country.

“Every Club employee is working hard to ensure that our kids can eat a healthy breakfast each and every morning. Even though we work at this all year round, the lead-up to September is always a little frantic. It’s quite a rush, getting everything in place for the volunteers to greet the kids they’ll be nurturing all year along. We wish everyone a wonderful first day back and year full of achievements, big and small!” – Marie-Josée Lapratte

The support the Club provides can vary depending on the school context. Through food deliveries, financial support, training and/or knowledge sharing, the Club strives to provide each school with the tools it needs to make sure participants get the most out of their breakfast program.

All breakfast programs receive a similar level of support as they prepare to reopen. We get in touch with the coordinators to ensure they have everything they need: hand-washing posters, food allergy factsheets, registration forms and more. Obviously, we will be paying special attention to the 166 programs that are new this year. It’s also the time for updates, including new guidelines for menu planning in light of the latest changes to Canada’s Food Guide in January 2019.

Over the summer, food partnerships are renegotiated to accommodate the breakfast programs and participants that have recently joined the BCC family. It’s around this time of year that we start accepting food donations for Quebec again at our distribution centre in Boucherville. Every week, some 100,000 pounds of food is shipped out from our warehouse. We also coordinate distribution chains in a number of Canadian cities to help make fresh and nutritious food available in more isolated communities, such as La Loche, Saskatchewan.

In other words, our entire network is abuzz with activity and working together to ensure that the start of the school year is a successful one.

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3 children playing hopscotch on a school playground

On World Mental Health Day, we wanted to share this touching story with you from a school in New Brunswick:

“There was a young lady who wrote on the bathroom stall walls that she was lonely, that nobody cared about her, that she had no friends. Many students wrote back in response encouraging her that she had value. But she still had no one to hang out or develop a friendship with. This young lady was introduced to me and we adopted her into our breakfast program family. She has volunteered every day since and has become completely committed to serving in this capacity.

We often think of how this program helps the kids who benefit from the food, but we sometimes overlook how important it can be in the life of the volunteers who serve. The 45 minutes to an hour that we spend together every morning prepping and serving has helped to foster a sense of belonging, purpose and pride in each of my volunteers. I cherish this program more every day. It is a very powerful opportunity that we provide, and this young lady instantly gained 12 friends in one morning!”

Visit the United Nations website to learn more about World Mental Health Day.

Breakfast Club of Canada believes that a school day should begin with a wholesome, healthy breakfast. Which is what we help provide to more than 243,000 students in 1,800 schools across the country every morning.

As we celebrate our 25th anniversary, we would like to invite you to help us draw attention to the most important meal of the day in a fun and whimsical way!

Throughout the month of November, we’re asking you to take a picture or video of yourself as you enjoy your breakfast and share it on social media. Maybe you’re sitting down with your family or at work. Perhaps you’re grabbing a quick bite during your morning routine or on your way out the door. Either way, we’re curious to know how Canadians from coast to coast are getting their day off to a nutritious and delicious start. Be creative and #ShareYourBreakfast moment with us!

Don’t forget to include the hashtag #ShareYourBreakfast and tag Breakfast Club of Canada in your post so we can share it too!

Children sitting in a classroom

Every year, we celebrate World Children’s Day on November 20 to promote the rights of our youngest citizens.

But why for only one day?

What if we could bring these core values to life all year round?

And what if one organization was already doing just that?

Breakfast Club of Canada is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. So many years, so many volunteers helping to reveal the light in every child, no matter how deeply hidden it might be.

So many years of commitment on the part of the Club’s co-founder, Judith Barry, to filling every child’s belly and unlocking every child’s potential.

The Club delivers more than daily nutrition: it creates a nurturing, stimulating environment where children have a voice, where they can develop their confidence and where they can relax and be themselves.

Making sure children’s rights are being respected means building positive relationships. Taking the time to listen to them and find out who they are and what they dream of is just as nourishing as a healthy breakfast. Children are strong. They are resilient. They are people in their own right. And they are poised to take on the world.

It’s up to us to make these stars shine bright by giving them what they need to reach the sky.

Judith knows this – and knows this well. Talking about the Club and the kids they serve with someone as passionate as she is, it’s easy to get caught up in her excitement and the drive she has when it comes to creating caring school communities where children share more than food around the same table.

Judith Barry, Co-Founder and Director, Impact & Sustainable Solutions, with a volunteer

As she points out so eloquently, children are the leaders of tomorrow – but they’re also playing a key role today. Youth engagement activities helps young people find their way and make a contribution. Kids may not yet be old enough to vote, but they are entitled to have and express their views and to be listened to. As adults, it is our responsibility to show them how meaningful their opinion is to us and how important it is to our community.

Let’s give our kids more room to grow and thrive. Let’s include them in the conversation.

Let’s encourage them to get involved in their community at every level, no matter how big or small the contribution. Because those who are leading the way now are bound to do the same in the future.

Where once we naively thought that only adults could volunteer with Breakfast Club of Canada, we now have more than 10,000 children and youth among our ranks, giving of their time to make a difference in the lives of other young people. The Club: for kids and with kids.

This dedication to others is a thing of beauty. We have so much to learn from this inspirational next generation.

We can’t be afraid to do more, and do better. We have to dare to keep our stars shining bright.

In an ideal world, World Children’s Day would not have to exist.

In an ideal world, Breakfast Club of Canada would not have to exist.

In an ideal world, if Judith didn’t already exist, we would have to invent her.

Her energy and her passion are contagious. We have the power, and the duty, to make these kids shine in an endless variety of ways.

One little piece of dark chocolate later, the stars I could sense while she was talking are still twinkling away in my mind. They are whispering in my ear that we can all do better.

What are we waiting for to make the stars shine?