Ginger Moyah, the principal at Grassy Plains School, shares how they have used funding to purchase five grow towers.

Grow towers rely on what is called a hydroponic system that promotes plant growth without soil. It instead uses motorized pumps, water and a nutrient solution to grow herbs, fruits and other types of plants. Each system has numerous units and slots on the sides of the system, where each plant is stored. Check out this interview with Ginger to learn more about how these grow towers supplement their breakfast program:

 

What were the beginnings of the grow towers?

So, we’re still kind of getting our feet under us with it. We ended up getting some funding through our local reserves, as well as our AVID coordinator, and Breakfast Club of Canada gave additional funds. We were able to purchase five grow towers, so that would be one for every one of our classrooms, and right now we’re just trying to figure them all out. One classroom sadly lost their crop to some bugs that came on though.

 

What kind of crops are the kids growing?

We’ve basically just started with the seeds that came with the kit. There is lettuce, arugula, kale, Swiss chard and basil, mostly greens so we can make salads and stuff with the kids. And, oh my goodness, the kids love it.

 

What has the feedback from the students been?

When they go to the kindergarten class, it doesn’t matter when or why there’s one little kindergarten girl who always shouts “MRS. MOYAH, COME LOOK AT THE BABIES!” She brings me over to see how big they’ve grown because they actually grow quite a bit faster than a regular garden. They have more light and nutrients so that’s pretty cool to watch. And all the kids are excited and keep an eye on everything.

 

And now you will be able to grow all year, right, because they’re indoors?

Exactly, which is huge for us too, because we live in quite a cold climate up here. Our growing time is the end of May until the end of August, basically. So much different than our traditional gardens. And for several years, we’ve been trying to garden with a community garden that’s right off our school property. But oftentimes, by the time we get back in September, because it is a community garden, people have already harvested a lot of the crops so the kids go through so much work and then they don’t get to see the rewards. The grow towers have been an amazing alternative to that.

 

How did you come up with the idea?

It was actually inspired from another principal in our district who started it at their school in town. And it was something that I’ve always wanted to do in my house. Growing and gardening has always been something that the school has tried to do but hasn’t had much success with, so we’re hoping this will be something that could be more sustainable during their school months because we don’t have our kids when the plants are actually growing in the ground outside. They don’t get to really see the full growth cycle of the vegetables and plants.

 

We’re you impacted this year by the changes?

Well, we’re just getting going; our plans are to not only supplement our hot lunch program because it would mostly be supplementing it with kale and breakfast smoothies. So, it will most likely benefit the lunch program. If we get production going enough, then we can send some stuff in healthy food boxes to some of our community members or our families in need. We’re hoping that we can have a great impact on our community.

Young Volunteers at BCC

Chelsea Hausler, the program coordinator at Georges P. Vanier School, has set up a legacy hours program where students can volunteer with the school breakfast program to help plan and serve breakfast. As part of the school’s graduation requirements, each student is required to volunteer 25 hours toward an initiative that supports the community. In this interview, Chelsea talks about the impact and value of this new program.

 

At the school, my role is a wellness coach, so I do a couple different things. I promote mental health, physical health, nutrition and community engagement — those are our four pillars. Doing the breakfast program comes under our nutrition mandate and is now a big part of my role.

 

What are legacy hours and how can they be applied? How did you come up with the idea of breakfast program volunteering for legacy hours?

At Georges P. Vanier, legacy hours are a non-negotiable 25 hours from every student before they graduate from high school. There are a variety of ways for them to fulfill this requirement, but the idea is to come up with a project or idea in the community. Some kids have cut grass, for example, or, pre-COVID, helped seniors in the community. Others have raised funds for a cause. It’s something that allows kids to explore what they’re passionate about and give back to the community. So we thought that some kids might be interested in volunteering with the breakfast program. And now we have seven of them who are with me every morning.

 

What has the impact been for the kids and the school? Have the student volunteers given you any direct feedback?

Five of them have said that they want to do it next year, which was really exciting. They said they enjoy it and the time goes by fast, which makes for an easy start to their morning. In terms of the general school feedback, it’s been very good. At first, kids would be hesitant, saying, “Am I allowed to take more than one thing?” Our answer was always the same: “It’s fine. That’s what we’re here for.” It probably took about five days for kids to take a little bit of everything. Right now, we probably have about 90% accessing the food. We have a lot of kids in our school who feel they may not be entitled to it because they have food at home, but because our rural catchment area is so big and the bus leaves so early, they often choose not to eat breakfast before they leave. They roll out of bed, put on their clothes and get on the bus. There are also a fair number of kids who don’t have access to fresh food at home. So now that we have fresh food and fruit available, they’re more likely to fill up on those!

 

What advice would you give other schools trying to streamline student volunteers into their breakfast program?

Encourage them by saying it’s a good place to help the community and show them how all these little pieces come together and have a big result. Some people may think, “But it’s only seven kids.” But without these seven kids, we couldn’t offer what we do. They’re instrumental to our success. And there are some kids who aren’t in the same peer group but are building relationships with one another. In the hallways before class, they now have that ease of communication.

The kids make the breakfast program fun, and it’s nice from a facilitator’s perspective to see them develop their leadership skills. You figure out the dynamics pretty quickly. You think, “Oh, OK, these two will delegate and lead and the other kids will listen.” So it fosters more than food prep education and budgeting, which is great to see.

With the latest numbers pointing to an 80% upsurge in food insecurity in Canada since the onset of the pandemic, breakfast programs supported by individual donors, corporate partners and governments are more important than ever. We are very fortunate to be able to count on a strong, engaged network of donors who believe in investing in children’s success.

What starts for some as a personal investment of their time and energy can sometimes turn into a longer-term commitment. The Club recently heard from Chantal Sawyer, who taught special education at Saint-Joseph School in Saint-Jérôme, Québec, for 12 years. She witnessed first-hand the impact breakfast programs have on students’ academic performance and overall well-being. Seeing every day what food insecurity does to a child and knowing that the needs are, sadly, greater than ever, she felt the need to double-down on her commitment to the Club’s programs to make sure they will always be there, beyond her lifetime, to help young people. She contacted the Club in 2019 to let us know she had provided for us in her will.

“I made a bequest to the Club because it’s vital children get something to eat before they start their school day. Without it, all they can think about is how hungry they are. That means they’re not ready to learn. Nobody would be.

I remember that the volunteers at that school stayed around longer for students who didn’t have time to eat breakfast at home. We were lucky to have the same volunteers year after year, which created a real sense of stability. I was touched by how dedicated they were.

No matter the circumstances —whatever time it was, whether it was in the middle of a blizzard or an ice storm, even if it made them a half-hour late — I always made sure my kids had eaten. And I don’t want that to ever, ever, ever, ever stop. It should never come to an end. Even now, I have a small fridge in my classroom because the school I work at doesn’t have a breakfast program,” she told us.

 

A bequest is an easy, convenient and meaningful way for anyone to give to a favourite charity, although it is still largely unknown. There are several options available: you can leave a specific amount or a small percentage of your estate, which will have no impact on your financial situation during your lifetime. What’s more, a receipt will be issued to your estate when the time comes, which will reduce the amount of tax owing. The resulting benefits will help ensure your heirs don’t lose out.

If you’d like to learn more about planned giving or, if like Ms. Sawyer, you have already included a provision for the Club in your will, contact us at planned.giving@breakfastclubcanada.org so we can thank you and acknowledge your generosity.

 

Legal notice

We would be happy to assist you in your philanthropic planning but we are not qualified to provide any financial or legal advice. Please talk to a professional who is familiar with your financial circumstances.

This past year has been an exceptionally challenging one for many people. Although it has seen new opportunities appear for some, it has been fraught with obstacles for others. And the upcoming holiday season will be no less difficult for families who are already struggling to make ends meet. The pandemic has exacerbated household poverty to the point that one out of three Canadian children lives in a situation of food insecurity. Which is why a donation to Breakfast Club of Canada can make a real difference — now more than ever. Give children the gift of a nutritious morning meal in an environment that puts a smile on their face, boosts their self-confidence and provides them with the energy they need to achieve their potential all day long.

“By giving to Breakfast Club of Canada, you’ll be part of one of the best gift exchanges going this season. Not only will your donation help keep nearly 2,000 breakfast programs running across the country, but it will also have a positive impact on you,” as stated by Marie-Pier Lemyre, Senior Advisor, Planned Giving at Breakfast Club of Canada. According to a recent study, generous people live happier lives.[1] Interesting, don’t you think? But that’s not all!

Did you know your donation entitles you to a tax credit that works out to about 33% for a donation of up to $200 and about 50% on any amounts above this?[2] But there are other ways to give beyond cash donations. Few people realize that if you own publicly traded shares that have increased significantly in value in the time since you acquired them and you use them to make a donation to the Club, there’s an extra incentive: you won’t have to pay tax on the corresponding capital gain.

Here’s an example to explain how this works:

Say you own shares that are currently valued at $2,000. You bought them a few years ago for $500. Normally, you would have to pay tax on half of the increase in value (i.e., the capital gain), or $750. By instead making a charitable donation of these shares, you’ll be exempt from this tax, which represents a substantial savings. If we estimate a rounded-off tax rate of 50%, that means an additional tax advantage of $375 — and that’s on top of the tax credit.[3]

Here is a video to help you better understand:

Whatever way you decide to show your support to BCC, you will be spreading the spirit of community that we have seen emerge in so many touching ways all year long and bring the magic of the season to children across the country. Help us put a twinkle in their eye by stepping up to the breakfast plate and feeding their appetite for success.

Happy Holidays, one and all!

THANK YOU TO JOCELYNE GONTHIER, MAJOR AND PLANNED GIFTS CONSULTANT, FOR HER INPUT IN WRITING THIS ARTICLE.
TO FIND OUT HOW TO DONATE PUBLICLY LISTED SECURITIES, WRITE TO US AT PLANNED.GIVING@BREAKFASTCLUBCANADA.ORG.
[1] SOURCE: STUDY CONDUCTED BY RESEARCHERS PHILIPPE TOBLER AND ERNST FEHR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ZURICH
[2] RATE WILL VARY DEPENDING ON YOUR TAXABLE INCOME.
[3] FOR A DONATION MADE IN THE PROVINCE OF QUEBEC.

LEGAL NOTICE
WE WOULD BE HAPPY TO ASSIST YOU IN YOUR PHILANTHROPIC PLANNING BUT WE ARE NOT QUALIFIED TO PROVIDE ANY FINANCIAL OR LEGAL ADVICE. PLEASE TALK TO A FINANCIAL ADVISOR, ACCOUNTANT, NOTARY, LAWYER OR OTHER PROFESSIONAL WHO IS FAMILIAR WITH YOUR FINANCIAL CIRCUMSTANCES AND THUS ABLE TO HELP YOU MAXIMIZE THE TAX BENEFITS OF YOUR CHARITABLE DONATIONS.

Waachiye!

We are pleased to be celebrating a special victory: thanks to the close collaboration of the Eeyou Nation (Cree) in Quebec and Breakfast Club of Canada, more than 4,500 students in 16 elementary and high schools now have access to a school breakfast program! 

During our first visit to these Northern communities in 2013 to provide support and raise awareness, BCC’s Indigenous programs advisor questioned the longer-term feasibility of supporting so many large school populations in these remote areas. Eight years and one regional partnership later, and it looks like we may have figured it out!

Our adventure with the Eeyou Istchee schools (Cree Nation) began in 2011 with the support of the Wemindji community. It wasn’t until 2015 (Waswanipi) and 2019 (Ouje-Bougoumou) that other local Cree schools joined in.

Since then, both the regional organizations we work with and our advisors and coordinators have accomplished a great deal. Their hard work deserves our praise and recognition.

In 2017, we reached out to the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay and, shortly after that, to the Cree School Board to join forces in setting up a universal breakfast program for all Eeyou Istchee schools. We are very fortunate to be working alongside strong leaders in both organizations. They have been, and continue to be, invaluable allies in making our shared vision a reality. Although 2019–2020 proved to be especially challenging with the arrival of COVID-19, our partnership has made it possible to keep making food deliveries to families with children in most communities.

We have seen many ups and downs along the way, but we finally opened breakfast programs in Chisasibi, in the two remaining Eeyou Nation schools without a program, namely James Bay Eeyou School and Waapinichikush Elementary, in December. Together these two schools have more than 1,000 students. The first food delivery to the community was awaited with great anticipation, and the programs have been very successful indeed, as indicated by their respective administrations:

“We have only had positive results since starting our breakfast program. Students are getting to school on time for a change, and they now have the energy to get through the morning!”

Principal, James Bay Eeyou School, Chisasibi

 

“The students’ basic needs are met, and they are more focused in class. They are happy to have good, nutritious snacks and look forward to them every day.”

Principal, Waapinichikush Elementary School, Chisasibi

Meegwetch to everyone who has helped make this happen!

 

Useful Links

A Club partner since 2018, BC Dairy provides generous bi-weekly donations of fresh dairy products to six Breakfast Club of Canada programs in Chilliwack and Agassiz, British Columbia, ensuring 500 students a day can benefit from increased food access in the region! Thanks to this project, the breakfast program coordinators at each of our partner schools can get creative with their meals and ensure their students have a nutritious and delicious start to their day! 

 

An integral partner in the BC Dairy project is Seabird Island Community School (Lalme’ Iwesawtexw) just outside of Agassiz, BC, part of the Stó:lō territory. With their large kitchen and full-time culinary staff, Seabird provides meals for 180 Kindergarten to grade 12 students per day, that’s over 1200 breakfasts a week! Coordinator Kim Smith has worked with The Breakfast Club of Canada to expand the reach of BC Dairy’s donations not just to her school, but to as many students in her community as possible, involving Agassiz Elementary Secondary School (AESS) and Agassiz Centre for Education into the project as well. Every two weeks, an order of fresh milk, yogurt and cheese arrives at Seabird, enough for the Club’s 3 breakfast programs in the region. Kim manages and separates the order and arranges the distribution of the food products, ensuring there is absolutely no food waste in the process. Her students’ favourite breakfasts are yogurt & berries, and scrambled eggs with rice, but they’re most excited about Chef’s Special days when their meals are a creative surprise!

Shannon Rigby-Jones (aka Mrs. RJ), the Nutrition Teacher at AESS, works closely with Kim to ensure their students across both schools have what they need for a successful breakfast. Mrs. RJ has incorporated her high school students’ Nutrition classes into their daily breakfast program. These classes prepare hundreds of meals per week, from tropical overnight oats with pineapple, to yogurt and berry parfaits, and protein boxes featuring fresh veggies, cheese, and hard-boiled eggs. This school year, AESS has had to shift their program from a hot breakfast to a grab & go model to adapt to social distancing guidelines, but the good news is that with these new recipes, they are able to offer more meals than ever to their students throughout the day, and exercise creativity in the classroom by playing around with new flavour combinations every week.

“We are extremely grateful to The Breakfast Club, and BC Dairy Association for their generosity and on-going commitment and support of this very important project.  It ensures not only our children at Seabird, but children in surrounding communities as well are receiving the nutrition they need daily.” – Kim Smith

In Canada, March is Nutrition Month, and once again this year, Breakfast Club of Canada is seizing the opportunity to discuss all aspects of healthy nutrition. 

On the menu this week: the Nutrition Committee

Healthy eating lies at the heart of the school food vision. If going to school on a full stomach can help children maintain proper concentration throughout the day, it’s easy to see how a rich and nutritious diet can enhance their focus even more.

Constantly seeking to improve and further support the school breakfast programs, the Club counts on the assistance of its Nutrition Committee. Made up of Club employees whose expertise are in healthy eating, school food and food security, the committee acts an advisory board and a liaison body for schools and on-the-ground partners across the nation.

Working collaboratively, the committee members tackle issues and challenges that their respective communities and schools face. Furthermore, the committee works on developing resources and tools that help to further support the growth of all BCC school breakfast programs.

At the organizational level, the Nutrition Committee offers advice on food procurement, food access, and nutrition standards related to school food programing. For instance, the committee is currently working on developing a strategy to encourage social equity and diversity in breakfast programs. Nutrition Committee members also provides recommendations on food products, recipes and menus for those overseeing and managing the programs.

As we celebrate Nutrition Month, let’s show some appreciation for the work accomplished by the Nutrition Committee members!

 

Catherine D’Amours
Programs Support Advisor

Catherine works hand in hand with the Club coordinators assigned to the different regions of Quebec, where close to 450 breakfast programs co-exist. She ensures the various programs align and acts as an advisor who provides advice and opinions on best practices, tools and processes.

A nutrition graduate, she invites parents and teachers to be open-minded in the kitchen: “We shouldn’t hesitate to present variety on children’s plates, nor should we get discouraged if they don’t show enthusiasm towards certain foods. Tastes evolve quickly at a young age, and the sooner we educate children about healthy nutrition, the more we increase their chances of succeeding in the long run.” Beyond quantity and quality of ingredients, Catherine invests much effort evaluating how to improve the overall meal experience so to impact youth positively in their development.

Chelsey Hazelton
Senior Program Coordinator

Chelsey is the main point of contact for close to 90 schools in Nunavut, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and southern Alberta. The main focus of her role is to support schools to run high quality breakfast programs across the board.

Over the past three years she has witnessed the Club’s support increase in Western Canada, where the number of children reached by Breakfast Club of Canada continues to grow. All breakfast programs are unique in that they adapt to their local realities and needs, and the committee is a great way to discuss and collaborate on resources to support nutrition in programs across Canada. Because the region she covers is massive and includes several Indigenous communities, the inclusion of culture and food traditions in programs are high on her priority list. She believes that now more than ever, it is important to stay engaged at the community level to be able to respond to local needs as they arise.

Virginie Marcoux
Programs Coordinator, Montreal and Lanaudière (Quebec)

Virginie is the most recent addition to the Nutrition Committee. As a dietician, she is particularly interested in public health and food security. Her experience makes her an advocate against the feelings of guilt that many parents face. She feels strongly that getting kids to eat healthy is about balance and variety, not perfection.

Representing the Club on community-level engagement projects such as La Cantine pour tous, she sees her role as that of the facilitator of a complex multistakeholder network whose goal is to reinforce collaboration to give way to more cohesive and sustainable food aid services. Mindful of letting the community speak for itself and of allowing for a diversity of voices to be heard, Virginie approaches her work with sensitivity and scrutiny.

Maxine Lam
Coordinator, Manitoba and Alberta North-East

Maxine understands the realities of rural and remote communities, she completed her Master’s thesis at the University of Manitoba studying the sustainability of school breakfast programs. Her day-to-day role involves working closely and collaboratively with schools in both urban and northern communities.

A large portion of Maxine’s work is dedicated to food accessibility projects. Transportation and food availability are very real issues for some of the schools she supports, which in turn affects the cost and quality of products. Beyond her day-to-day work with schools, she is deeply motivated by the public engagement aspect of her work: “It’s important for people to know that the socioeconomic situation of families is not the only factor explaining why a child might go to school on an empty stomach. Many other factors can come into play.”

 

Are you looking for ideas of activities to do or recipes to try during spring break or Nutrition Month? Check out our recipe book!

An important aspect to school food programs is the support and togetherness they help to build in the school community. Meals and breakfast programs represent a social gathering space that can inspire feelings of belonging and community that are beneficial to the learning environment (Healthy Schools BC, 2014).

This year, the social distancing guidelines in place may be protecting students and staff, but they are also posing a challenge to the connectedness of the school community. After all, how do you bring students together while keeping them apart?

Many programs across Canada are seeking ways to increase school spirit while complying with these new restrictions. Initially, the Grande Prairie School Snacks Program switched from student-accessed community fridges to a system where meals were made available in the office upon request. However, they quickly identified that students were less comfortable eating breakfast at school with their new socially distanced service method. Fewer students were eating breakfast at the schools served by the Snack Program. The program leaders saw the reluctance and reduced attendance as a symptom of the stigma associated with child hunger.

 

“Once students had to start to ask for food items, it created a stigma.”
— Kari Pritchard, Executive Director, Grande Prairie & District Catholic Schools Education Foundation

 

The Grande Prairie Schools Snack Program uses a larger, centralized kitchen to provide breakfast to 12 schools that serve over 100,000 meals each year. Previously, the program delivered breakfasts once a week to community fridges at each school. Students accessed the fridges themselves, whenever they wanted. Since the community fridges would be an unsafe touchpoint in the current situation, the schools switched to a system based on students asking for breakfast in the office.

When it became apparent that the new program model was negatively affecting the school communities, the Snack Program took action to reduce the stigma experienced by students by changing their delivery system.

The Grande Prairie Schools Snack Program found a solution to this problem by re-creating their menu to suit classroom bins that would still be filled once per week. The bins have a selection of nutritious foods that are shelf-stable for one week or more. Their menu includes baked goods like muffins, cranberry oatmeal cookies and cheese buns; healthy snacks like their “monster mix”; and fresh fruits like oranges and grapes. By bringing food into the daily routine and into the classroom, the program has normalized eating breakfast at school. Since the change, more students have felt comfortable accessing extra food in the office, making participation in the school breakfast program more acceptable.

 

“I feel that by offering the classroom bins the students feel more comfortable with accessing food at the office as well.”
— Kari Pritchard, Executive Director, Grande Prairie & District Catholic Schools Education Foundation

 

It is important to consider that there are many ways to engage a school community, and breakfast programs are not “one size fits all.” Each school community has responded to problems arising from the new social distancing restrictions with creative, innovative solutions that help make their breakfast programs a success!

 

 

References

Healthy Schools BC. (2014). School Connectedness What does the evidence say? Retrieved from www.healthyschoolsbc.ca/schoolconnectedness.

Activating Change Together for Community Food Security. (2014). Making Food Matter: Strategies for Activating Change Together. Halifax, NS: Food Action Research Centre (FoodARC), Mount Saint Vincent University.

Man and children wearing masks while holding green compost buckets

Des Grands-Êtres elementary school in Montreal has put a planet-friendly spin on how they run their breakfast program. Mario Cloutier is the school’s drama teacher. Here, he talks to us about the impact of this environmental mindset and shares how important the breakfast program is to the student population.

 

“I’m the teacher in charge of the Green (Environment) Committee at Des Grands-Êtres elementary school. Below is an overview of what drives our school team to contribute to this initiative.

Students are excellent agents of change, whether it’s through setting up projects to protect the environment or supporting a sustainable initiative in the local community. I hope my answers to these five questions will give you a good idea of what we’re doing here!”

Mario Cloutier, drama teacher

 

What about your breakfast program are you particularly proud of?

Three or four years ago, we introduced a school-wide composting program. We have even put together a “green squad,” made up of Grade 6 students, who are responsible for emptying out the composting bins and putting them back every day.

What advice would you give to other schools who have green ambitions?

Kids are our future, and the environment should be one of the most important priorities for anyone who works with them. It takes a generation to create new behaviours. So today’s students are the ones who will eventually lead real and lasting change.

How has your breakfast program affected school spirit?

The breakfast program is essential to the development of our kids. It helps improve their learning conditions by making sure they have access to healthy snacks.

What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever heard someone say about your breakfast program?

Everyone has their favourites when it comes to the food that is served. Some are “the best.” Others… not so much. So sometimes we hear things like, “Oh, no. Not that again!” But we can also hear an excited, “Awesome! I love this!”

If you could invite someone famous to breakfast at your school, who would it be and why?

Greta Thunberg, to make our students feel even more inspired to take care of their environment. Or (even if they’re not exactly famous) the CEO of a company who’d be willing to build us a green roof!

child sitting at desk with an apple

 

We are proud to lend our support and expertise to schools as they adapt their breakfast programs in line with public health protocols. We hope this will enable schools across the country to continue making a healthy morning meal available to students in a nourishing and comforting environment.

 

Here are a few ideas and recommendations other schools and programs have shared:

  • Allow additional time for planning, preparation, monitoring and cleaning.
  • Focus on food that comes individually packaged or portion it out and wrap it in advance.
  • Various recommendations have been developed for each program delivery model (grab & go, classroom bin or cafeteria/sit-down), all of which comply with applicable protocols and help minimize food handling.
  • Compliance with hygiene and safety measures and health guidelines issued by your provincial government and school administration is essential to the operation of a breakfast program in the context of COVID-19.
  • Handwashing for all is required before and after students eat.
  • All tables and desks used for the program should be disinfected after breakfast using a proper sanitizing solution. Bins, dishes and any reusable utensils should be cleaned daily.
  • Tongs must be used to help safely distribute food to students.

If there’s one thing that’s for certain, it’s that Breakfast Club of Canada will continue to be there for children, no matter where they are. After all, food insecurity is something that knows no bounds.

Learn more about our Breakfast Program Adapted to COVID-19 Protocols by consulting our Toolkit for schools!

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