Most people think of school breakfast programs as a way of making sure students get the nutrition they need to fuel their academic performance.
But what they don’t necessarily consider is all the social perks these programs have for their young members.
In connection with International Friendship Day, we talked to Linzi, who was a breakfast program enrollee when she was younger. She used to eat breakfast at school several times a week, but not because of food insecurity. It was a way for her to make friends and learn more about the culture of her adopted home of Quebec.
Her family came here from China when she was six years old. They moved to the Montreal suburb of LaSalle when she was eight. That’s when she first heard about Breakfast Club of Canada. With both her parents working and two other siblings at home, mornings in her household tended to be hectic. Her family made the decision to sign her up for the breakfast program so she could enjoy a calmer start to the day and have the time to eat a full, wholesome breakfast before the first bell rang.
It was there, over breakfast, that Linzi realized that overcoming linguistic barriers and engaging in a conversation with her fellow students wasn’t as difficult as it first seemed.
“With all the food there was to choose from, it created an environment where, even if I didn’t really know very many kids, I could say things like, ‘Oh, is that what you picked?’, ‘And you took that?’ ‘Is that good?’ or ‘I like this one the best.’ It gave us something in common we could talk about.”
One of the benefits of the breakfast program for Linzi was all the friendships that emerged from it, with students at all grade levels.
“I made tons of friends through Breakfast Club of Canada because it had nothing to do with school as such. But I would see some of my classmates there, too. After you have breakfast, you have the energy you need to begin your day, but it also means you feel less rushed.”
Linzi and the other kids would chat over breakfast, regardless of their differing ages or grade levels. They all looked out for one another. The older kids would help the younger ones, for example, by going to get them a utensil they didn’t have. And the more experienced breakfast program enrollees were quick to show the newbies the ropes, she explained.
She has lots of great memories of her time with Breakfast Club of Canada. One that stands out in her mind is an encounter she had with an older student.
“I remember I was finishing up something I really liked, but I was too shy to get up and get seconds. Breakfast was almost over, and the volunteers were starting to clean up. That’s when one of the older kids who hadn’t eaten his said to me, ‘You can have mine if you want.’”
Linzi also has fond recollections of her first school breakfast. She felt a little lost, but she remembers the volunteers who walked her in and made her feel instantly at home.
“They were so nice. They smiled, took the time to talk to me, and said, ‘Hi, how are you today?’ to every child who came in and paid close attention to them. I felt seen. I felt like I mattered. When you show up with a tray and you don’t know a soul, it’s a little scary. It really helped me come out of my shell. It’s this type of experience that definitely shaped my sense of belonging with the Quebec community.”
Today, Linzi is the co-founder and director of operations at the Gallea art gallery, Canada’s largest online art gallery and exhibition venue. Not only does she work in the operations division, she is also an artist herself. It was important to her to make sure other children can have the same positive experience she did when she was younger. Fun fact, Gallea is also one of the Club’s newest partners.
Breakfast programs influence children’s lives in countless ways. You can learn more about BCC’s impact.