In early fall, we hosted seven Open House sessions across Canada.
These sessions were an opportunity for schools to connect with the Club and other schools in their region. Participants were able to share current plans, exchange ideas and offer support to one another. Three main topics were covered: menu planning, budgeting and food preparation, and community partnerships.
There were many challenges shared, ranging from equipment capacity and volunteer recruitment within the school community to strategies for preparing a variety of meals to suit students’ preferences. However, along with these came many innovative solutions:
- Grab-and-go model: Schools had great ideas to share about how they changed to a grab-and-go model to increase accessibility for students. This model also cuts down on preparation time and lets schools plan menus more easily. Participants mentioned that a high number of volunteers and greater equipment capacity significantly increase program efficiency and capability.
- Reintroduction of hot and specialty items: Many schools have found great success in bringing back egg dishes. One school highlighted that egg bites are a popular hot item that can be used in the grab-and-go model.
- Popular menu items: In many schools, there are ongoing requests to vary the items offered. Bobbi from Food & Friends shared that they have a school that not only serves the regular breakfast staple foods, but also offers things like spaghetti, dumplings and other items for breakfast, noting that not everybody likes to eat traditional breakfast items in the morning.
- Some of the most popular items served are:
- Breakfast wraps and sandwiches
- Baked oatmeal
- Bannock pops and bagels
- Pizza bagels
- Oatmeal bean cookies.
See our Recipe Book for some unique and delicious recipes!
Budgeting and food preparation
In all of our sessions, schools raised concerns regarding rising inflation and the cost of food. Schools also discussed how they needed to tighten their budget and stretch it even further than previous years. Most of the schools present wanted to learn from the Club and other schools about budgeting tips. See our 2022 Toolkit for information and resources regarding the operation of your breakfast program.
Schools highlighted the following ideas to help with budgeting and food preparation:
- Reducing food waste: A school in BC mentioned that they will not start making hot food until students are present in the breakfast room and confirm that they would like to have something to eat.
- Promoting environmental sustainability: Students can bring in their own cutlery and wash it at home to avoid single-use plastics and additional costs for utensils, etc.
- Rescuing food: One school mentioned their partnership with Second Harvest to gather additional produce for their program. Second Harvest is the largest food rescue organization in Canada. From farm to retail, they capture surplus food before it ends up in landfill, diverting it to organizations to use in their food preparation and distribution.
At all of our sessions, we asked, “What partnerships or donations have you been able to leverage with local stores, organizations or community groups? How did these partnerships or these donations begin? How did you approach them?” We received a phenomenal amount of feedback!
- Fundraising: A rural school in Alberta entered into a partnership with the new gas station in town to hold fundraising activities. Students create handmade crafts to sell at the gas station to raise funds for their breakfast program. School-made muffins are also a popular fundraising item.
- Bakeries: One school in Alberta has a partnership with COBS Bread. Their donations are received once per week. They use the breads and buns for their breakfast program and share the surplus with other community schools in the area.
- Local restaurants and pubs: A school in British Columbia mentioned that they have a partnership with a local pub. A percentage of the sales from a designated “charity tap” goes toward supporting the school’s breakfast program.
- Transportation: A school in New Brunswick has teamed up with local transport trucking companies. If a pallet of food is turned away from a store, the companies will call the school to see if any of the items can be used in their breakfast program.
- Community and senior centres: A local senior centre prepares muffins for a school breakfast program. The school purchases the ingredients, delivers them to senior centre and picks up the products once they’re made.
Partnerships like these can be a huge help in maximizing the potential of your breakfast program. They are also a great way to engage the local community. Let us know how we can help!
The Open House sessions are a part of our dedication to providing personalized support to each program, in this case, by focusing on regional relationship-building among schools. We are already looking forward to our next sessions later in the year.