Grandma with children

 

“Mamou Joanne, guess what? It’s my birthday today!”

Behind the counter, the volunteer smiled, turned around to grab a carrot muffin baked specially for the occasion and handed it to the beaming birthday boy, who was tickled pink that Mamou Joanne remembered.

It was just another morning for the grandmother/volunteer but one where she made yet another child feel important.

Mamou Joanne, aka Joanne Morin, has been volunteering with the breakfast program at Lionel-Groulx School for a year now and has been the site coordinator since the start of the school year. Giving back to the community is a long, proud tradition for Joanne and her children. (As you know, volunteering knows no age limit at the Club!) Lionel-Groulx School is actually where the whole Breakfast Club of Canada adventure began 25 years ago. And if anyone is going to celebrate this milestone anniversary, it’s certainly going to be Joanne!

When she talks about her experience as a volunteer, the joy she feels at being a part of school life and the broader community shines through. In addition to her duties at the Club, she is also involved in several other local organizations. Now that’s someone with tons of energy and spirit to burn. Quite the inspiration, our Mamou Joanne!

Before she retired, she worked as a cook, making her the perfect choice for this assignment, which means the world to her. Plus, she lives right across the street from the school, so all she has to do is take a few steps and she’s there to welcome the morning crowd. Her daughter often comes in to help because, after all, the Club is a family affair! By 9 a.m., Joanne goes back to her house for a nap and then gets lunch ready for her grandchildren and a few of their friends, whenever their parents need a helping hand. It’s like a mini-Club right in her kitchen!

Every day, Joanne has a front-row seat to see students’ joyful reactions to getting together before classes begin in the morning. They talk (a lot!) and they laugh (a lot!) as they eat. “It’s such a lovely way to get the day started,” said Joanne. “And it makes life so much easier for parents. They know their kids are getting a good meal and don’t have to rush.”

Mamou Joanne is as much a part of the Lionel-Groulx School team as any of the teaching or support staff. Because she interacts with the kids a little differently, she can sometimes catch problems nobody else can. She can tell when something’s wrong – and she can refer children directly to a staff member as necessary. Joanne is there to listen to them, reassure them, explain things to them and encourage them to look at things from another angle – as only a grandma can. Which is why they all affectionately call her “Mamou.” They can tell that Mamou Joanne is there to watch out for them.

It looks like the old adage has proved true once again: it really does take a village to raise a child. Thank you, Mamou Joanne, for being part of our village!

 

Little girl blowing on a pinwheel

 

From coast to coast, in every province and territory, dedicated parents, volunteers, and school staff get up early each morning to make a huge impact in the day of these students by providing them with equal opportunities to succeed. The following stories are just a few of the wonderful testimonials to the power of breakfast programs in the schools. We hope you’ll find these stories as impactful and touching as we do.

Emily, student, James Park Elementary School, British Columbia

Hi, my name’s Emily and I’m a Grade 5 student from British Columbia. My dad actually got me into Breakfast Club because he started volunteering, so I went with him and learned how to do all the cool things that the Breakfast Club needs. Like pouring water, making pizza buns… making all the things on the menu (laughs)! That was three years ago and I still volunteer every day because I love serving the other kids, and now my mom comes also so it’s my dad, my mom, and me, so it’s something fun we do as a family.

Lots of kids come with their families so it makes me really happy to see everyone enjoying the food. I’ve gotten to know a bunch of adults who used to be strangers, and now I also am friends with their kids because of that! Kids are getting to know each other better, and lots more people come to school early now so they can join the program, so it’s really fun. Sometime even the principal and teachers eat with us and that makes us happy. We get to know them in a different way and I’ve learned some things about the adults that I wouldn’t have learned if we just saw each other in class.

School Administrator, Johnny Therriault Memorial School, Aroland First Nation, Ontario

Our Breakfast program is as much about serving nutritious food as it is a social event. Without a doubt, our program improves the mental and psycho-social well-being of our students. From time to time we have new students in an unfamiliar school and community, and they are often very cautious, reluctant, shy and introverted. However, as these students begin to settle in, the breakfast program helps them form new friendships. One specific student who was a Tikinagan child, enrolled in our school in Grade 5. She was extremely shy and hardly spoke. She was very hesitant to participate in the breakfast program, fearful to even enter the gymnasium where the program takes place. After some support and words of encouragement from staff, she slowly started to come into the program, eat with her fellow classmates, smile and socialize. It was wonderful to see her smile, talking and socializing with her classmates after only two weeks of coming to our school.

Stéphanie Riedyk, Breakfast Program Supervisor, École La Mosaïque, Alberta

Our school is multicultural school, where students develop new tastes related to the Canada Food Guide. Parents really value what our program offers their kids. One father told me, “this program is a blessing for modest families like ours, who do not necessarily have the means to offer a complete meal to our children and especially the time necessary to do it early in the morning. We are infinitely grateful to you”. What we really love is when the children come to tell us after each breakfast “Mrs. Stephanie, I really liked this meal. Thank you very much, what are we eating tomorrow?” You can not know how happy I am to see the glowing eyes of these little children happy to have eaten well.

LaSalle Elementary Junior School, Quebec

Conversation with Mrs. Donna, Integration Aid

Donna: I go outside at recess with the kids and there’s this one little child who is always in trouble, never listens, you always hear his name being called to come here, stop that, or get down from there. Since stating breakfast late last year, that’s all stopped. Now he comes in, has his breakfast…he’s the happiest little boy.

Club: What do you think it is about breakfast club that helps him the most? The full belly? The social aspect?

Donna: A bit of both. And just having a calm moment to start the day, the calm music really helps. I am so happy with this child. What a good feeling – and what a good feeling for him.

Conversation Mrs. Julia, Teacher

Julia: I love volunteering at breakfast club because I get to interact with the kids so early in the morning. Some of them come in a bit sad so I make them happy by just talking to them.

Club: How is it different than in the classroom?

Julia: Because it’s one on one here. You’re not their teacher so you can have conversations and joke with them. Some of them just need a little hello to make their day and that’s important to me.

In fact, during the interview, Mrs Julia got to demonstrate this when a student came in and said he had put his tooth under his pillow last night, but the tooth fairy didn’t come. Mrs. Julia made a big deal of his missing tooth, congratulated him on losing it and made him feel special.

Conversation with the kids

Club: What’s your favorite thing you get at breakfast club?

Student: Bagels! When we first went in breakfast club our first day we saw bagels! Its soooooo good! I wish we had bagels everyday! (is tomorrow bagel day?)

Other students: Grilled cheese! We love grilled cheese!

Club: so this must be your favorite day!

Students: yes! It’s the best!

Club: I see there’s a lot of people working very hard to make your favorite breakfast!

Student: I was here this morning and I saw Mrs Donna make all this.

Club: I saw when you came in before you gave Mrs Donna a big hug? She’s special….

Student: I love her she’s my favorite! She used to be in my class last year.

Club: it must be fun that you get to have breakfast with her every day now!

Student: Yah!

DONATE

Volunteers sitting in a line with flowers and baloons

 

As we celebrate International Volunteer Day, Breakfast Club of Canada would like to thank the 17,500 adult volunteers and 10,300 youth volunteers who rise and shine every morning to get a good healthy breakfast ready for 240,000 students in 1,809 schools across the country. For the past 25 years, you have been the driving force behind the success of our mission. Without you, the Club’s nation-wide network of breakfast programs would not exist.

Today, we’d like to shine the spotlight on the work done by the members of the Association des personnes handicapées de Chibougamau-Chapais (APHCC). APHCC Executive Director Lynda Bubar explains: “As part of the association’s fight against poverty and marginalization, we developed a pilot project in November 2010 to serve breakfast and lunch at La Porte-du-Nord, a local high school.”

For this initiative, the cafeteria uses the services of people with intellectual and/or physical disabilities. This gives them an opportunity to work in a stable, well-supervised environment suited to their individual needs. As a result, they are less socially isolated and feel like they belong to a unified community. As everyone gets better acquainted, the differences between them become less apparent, and individual gifts and talents shine through. The students are respectful, and volunteers with disabilities enjoy the important role they play in the school.

Routines and tasks are planned around volunteers’ capacities, their ability to learn and even their specific personalities. They can therefore progress at their own pace, take on new challenges and become more confident. Once they have reached a certain level of comfort in their activities, the APHCC then gradually increases the degree of difficulty. They can also use the opportunity to gain personal and job-related skills.

Bubar explains that the work experience is appealing and enriching. Not only is it a stable source of nutrition for both students and volunteers, but it also provides an environment that is mindful of varying aptitudes and needs. Plus, it makes people with disabilities feel valued and needed. These are all meaningful benefits. As a result of their involvement, the volunteers have become active, engaged members of their community. They are also instrumental in helping people understand and appreciate individual differences. It is a wonderful example of a hands-on awareness and education program in action – and a great opportunity to bring more visibility to people living with disabilities.

The impacts of the project are tangible. Volunteers find the experience rewarding at a personal level. For others, it helps them maintain an emotional balance. And many of them say that it fills a fundamental need of feeling like they’re part of a family.

Thinking back, one volunteer stands out in Bubar’s mind. “Diane, who had severe physical limitations, volunteered with the breakfast program for five whole years. She’d show up for her shift without fail, always on time and always ready to work. She took her role very seriously. Everyone on the team and all of the students loved her. And she got a lot out of it in terms of self-esteem.”

“The relationship between students and the APHCC team is very important,” added Bubar. “We are very lucky to be able to serve a healthy breakfast every morning in such a friendly, inclusive environment. This endeavour has made it possible for the team, volunteers, job readiness program participants and, of course, students to become more caring, compassionate people. It’s very heartwarming to see.”

Thank you to all APHCC volunteers for making their community a better place!

Little girl smiling and enjoying her breakfast of grapes bread and eggs

This month, we are putting a spotlight on the breakfast program at Central Community School in Port Coquitlam, BC. Central Community School has been a part of the Breakfast Club of Canada family since 2015. The program started off small – serving an average of 20 to 25 students out of a school population of 300+.

Last year, the principal and breakfast coordinator made a conscious decision to increase engagement with the breakfast program and reach more students. There were a number of factors that contributed to the success of this initiative.

  1. Instead of serving breakfast out of the kitchen, breakfast is now served in the gym. This new location provides a larger, welcoming environment and enough space for students, parents and staff to congregate, have a bite to eat and connect in the morning before school starts.
  2. The site coordinator often communicates with other breakfast coordinators that run bustling programs in the district. They discuss best practices and use one another as sounding boards for new ideas.
  3. They have leveraged their breakfast program as an opportunity to engage with their local community: one morning, the Port Coquitlam fire department hosted a school-wide pancake breakfast!

Most importantly, the staff at Central Community acknowledge that a successful breakfast program requires a team effort. The program is supported by numerous teachers, youth workers, educational assistants, parent volunteers, student volunteers from the neighbouring high school and the principal. The program now feeds 90 to 100 students each morning!

Thank you, Central Community, for allowing us to be a part of your exciting journey!

Two women ready to serve breakfast with trays full of eggs, bananas and muffins

 

It’s early in the morning in a New Brunswick high school. Classes haven’t begun yet but, if you listen closely, you can hear music coming from inside the building. If you follow your ears – and your nose, as the smell of freshly baked blueberry muffins wafts through the air – you’ll soon run into the Breakfast Club of Canada cart, rolling along from floor to floor. And it’s all because of Colleen Dunnet and her cooking class students, who deliver tasty breakfast treats with a smile every single morning.

As fate would have it, Colleen – an English teacher by profession – was asked to sub for the school’s cooking teacher five years ago. From that point on, there was no turning back! She has become more and more involved with the Club and the students ever since.

Colleen loves to cook. So she took it upon herself to whip up a special menu when the breakfast program started up at her school. Cue the mini-quiches, muffins galore, breakfast burritos, scones, cheese, apple salsa and so much more. The sheer variety rivalled anything you’d find on a restaurant menu!

But what’s even more impressive is her commitment to kicking things up a notch – WITH kids and FOR kids – to have her cooking class students actually make food for the breakfast program. Everybody has a clear job and learns their recipes by heart. Every week, they get together to create a meal plan for the following week. Note, however, that nothing gets prepared and frozen in advance. The muffins, scones and mini-quiches are cooked up that morning and served piping hot by the student volunteers. Mmmmm! If you close your eyes, I’m sure you can catch a mouth-watering whiff of those scones!

But despite already being a planner extraordinaire, Colleen had to hone her technique as the Club began to serve more and more students. When she first started, she had about a dozen breakfasts to make on a daily basis. Three years later, she was up to 60, and that number has since leapt to anywhere between 200 and 250. That’s quite the progress – and quite the organizational feat!

In the past two years, the cart concept has really caught on with students. And it was all Colleen’s idea – in order to avoid the potential embarrassment of being labelled a “Breakfast Club kid.” Today, whenever they hear the music, they all crowd around the cart, drawn in by the aroma of baked goods straight out of the oven. The chatting and laughing around the cart can be heard echoing through the hallways, making for a warm, inviting atmosphere, not unlike a coffee machine in an office. So that made it Colleen 1, embarrassment 0.

But Colleen didn’t stop there. More recently, she noticed that some students were coming to school without lunch. That’s when the idea for a “serve yourself fridge” came to her. The result: a well-stocked collection of breakfast, lunch and snack items that students can help themselves to any time they feel like it. With no fear of being looked down on.

What an incredible show of dedication! Being the only grown-up on the breakfast program team can be a daunting task, but the feeling of gratification it gives Colleen makes it all worthwhile. Through the Club, she has learned that hunger and poverty can lurk anywhere, but coming together as a community can make all the difference. Thank you, Colleen, for giving back with such passion and kindness!

 

child playing with play-doh

 

What an emotion-packed morning we just had!

When our daycare was picked to help essential workers by taking care of what is most precious to them – their children – we came up with the idea of doing something special.

My colleague and I, working with the administration of Trait-d’Union School in Sainte-Thérèse and BCC, decided to offer a “breakfast haven” to children caught up in this whirlwind of change.

Seeing all these kids walk into a completely new daycare, with new educators, new friends, a new routine – a new everything! – was hard. But it also gave us an opportunity to make a difference. We offered them a brief escape, where the only thing they had to think about was having fun, celebrating a birthday, drawing a picture or playing checkers, while they waited for everyone to finish eating. That was our goal, and we achieved it with caring and compassion for a bunch of youngsters who are feeling a little lost right now.

I’m so grateful to my “partner in crime,” Monique Plastre, for going along with all my ideas and plans. We hope to be able to keep delivering on this promise for as long as we are needed.

Together, we can lend a helping hand and make sure everyone is safe.

The M&M Team (Monique Papin, Monique Plastre)
Trait-d’Union School, Sainte-Thérèse, Quebec

Women holding child

 

Christine* is a single mom with three young children. She, like many others, has lost her job due to the COVID-19 crisis. Thankfully, her government benefits have come in quickly: her fridge is practically bare. She has no choice but to go to the grocery store because getting her order delivered can take up to two weeks and social distancing means she has nobody to look after her children while she shops. So she heads out, with all three in tow. But the sideways looks and stares she gets once there are not exactly welcoming. “I can’t believe she’s putting her kids in danger like that,” she overhears one person murmur behind her back. Her eyes brimming with tears, she puts a few basic essentials in her cart, pays and leaves. Fortunately, one of the staff members from the Centre de pédiatrie sociale de Laval (CPSL) is able to help by picking up her groceries at the store and dropping them off to her front door.

These are trying times for us all, but vulnerable families are struggling more than most. Thanks to the support of donors, we can find ways to make life a little easier for parents like Christine.

*Not her real name.

Thank you to the CPSL for this touching story, which is a reminder of how difficult things are for many families across the country during the pandemic. Single parenting is already a tough job. If you add unemployment, illness and the heavy emotional toll to the mix, the effect can be devastating.

Breakfast Club of Canada is reallocating funds to local community organizations who already have connections with families in need. We are proud to support mothers like Christine and parents across Canada who are doing everything they can to make sure their children get enough to eat in less-than-ideal circumstances.

Across the country, through the COVID-19 Emergency Fund, Breakfast Club of Canada collaborates with community organizations to ensure children receive the nutrition they need during this crisis. Since schools closed a few weeks ago, the Club rolled up its sleeves to find solutions to reach children. Stay in touch for new stories on our #LocalHeroes!

MAKE A DONATION

Two teens giving a thumbs up

 

I’m a nurse working for the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation Family and Community Wellness Centre. My community has been in lockdown for over a month. No one is allowed to leave or enter in an effort to keep COVID-19 out. Access is given only to essential workers.

This lockdown is especially difficult for families, as many get the bulk of their groceries in the city of Thompson. There is only one store in the community, and it often has long line-ups. This is due to the customer limit to practice social distancing. Community members must wait outside in line. Wait times are often two to three hours on income days.

The thought of families struggling to get adequate food for their children grieved me. So I took the initiative to find a way to help them. I applied for the Breakfast Club Special Grant with the goal of reaching 300 children by June.

In April, we made 48 packages and delivered them to Nisichawayasihk homes. Approximately 190 kids were reached in one evening with the help of three volunteers.

Brigette Towers responded to my Facebook post looking for volunteers, not knowing her household was one of the many families on the recipient list. She helped me make the breakfast packages and deliver half of them. Larson and Keith Dumas (brothers) helped me deliver the other half.

The breakfast packages were very unexpected. The families were all surprised, thankful and glad to receive one.

We’ve even received comments from kids as young as five. One of them thought it was Christmas already and said, “You brought me a present!”

Thank you, Breakfast Club of Canada!

Leanna Anderson, LPN
Interim Program Coordinator
Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative
Canadian Prenatal Nutrition Program
Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation Family and Community Wellness Center

Across the country, through the COVID-19 Emergency Fund, Breakfast Club of Canada collaborates with community organizations to ensure children receive the nutrition they need during this crisis. Since schools closed a few weeks ago, the Club rolled up its sleeves to find solutions to reach children. Stay in touch for new stories on our #LocalHeroes!

Your donation can help make a difference – right now.

MAKE A DONATION

Children drawing of human and flower

 

This week, we are bringing you an interview with Mary D’Alton, the person in charge of strategic development at Nutrition for Learning (N4L), one of the recipients of our special grants. Join us for a closer look at the local heroes in the N4L community in the midst of this pandemic.

Thank you Mary for joining us today. Do you have testimonials of heroes within your initiative (volunteers, delivery people, etc.) to share with us?

Personally, I do not have a single testimonial. It starts with the board of directors whose main concern is ensuring children continue to have nutritious snacks; it then moves along to the volunteer coordinator who ensures there are enough volunteers in place to make this a success. And of course the volunteers who said “yes” knowing that this is an essential service and are an extension of a front-line worker. Next are the drivers (especially Neil) who tirelessly get up all hours of the morning, make pickups, load trucks, create routes and drive around the city making stops, always ensuring the safety of the volunteers and families and always with a smile on their face. Neil really loves his job and is so dedicated to ensuring that everyone who needs something, gets something.

What is the impact of giving food to families in need in your community during the COVID-19 crisis?

From the look on parents’ and kids’ faces alike, the impact that the Nutrition for Learning program is making is huge. When we put the box of food on the cart, the look of relief is apparent. Not only do parents know that their kids are getting the same nutritious snacks as at school, but also the extra food items we are including are taking a little financial stress off the families. The younger kids are so excited to get the lunch bag to see what is inside.

Have you seen an increase in families and children asking for food?

There definitely has been an increase. I would think as more and more parents are finding it difficult to make ends meet, whatever we include takes the pressure off the grocery list. We have had so many wonderful additions/food donations to this program. I am truly amazed at the companies who are helping Nutrition for Learning. Working hand in hand with the Food Banks has enabled Nutrition for Learning to add some awesome staples – salad kits and hot oatmeal, to name a couple.

 

 

Would you like to share a portrait of one of your volunteers or someone else working on the field within your initiative?

The principal at Central Public School in Cambridge. She has been with us every Thursday since the program started.  She shows up every week and greets and speaks with every student/parent, checking in with them to make sure they are doing okay. She has been continually reaching out to parents from her school and has increased the number of families that come every week. Last Thursday, there must have been 25 families lined up when we got there.

Everyone at N4L is a community hero. Throughout this pandemic experience, I’ve met lots of positive and inspiring people who work and volunteer at N4L.

If I had to choose one, I have been with Neil most of the time… Neil has been a wonderful role model, patient and positive. He makes volunteers feel appreciated. Neil truly loves his job. It is very noticeable in his work and the smile he has every morning.

As the weeks pass, the need rises. I am noticing in some locations families are coming out and using the service more so than four weeks prior.

We have some who are coming out to pick stuff up for friends, family members and neighbours so they do not need to leave their home.

Do you have funny or happy moments in the field you would like to share with us?

Wednesday (April 15th) we stopped at St. Andrew’s Public School in Cambridge. In addition to everything else, we were giving out Bear Paws. Neil opened a box of Bear Paws and found banana flavour. When he asked the parent if her child wanted banana flavour, she started jumping up and down saying to her daughter, “We love banana! That’s our favorite flavour!” It was so funny to watch both mom and daughter get so excited over banana-flavoured Bear Paws. Neil gave them an extra box and she kept saying thank you, thank you, thank you!

The volunteers that I have worked with are amazing. No matter the weather or the number of families we serve, everyone always has a smile on their face. The more families we serve, the bigger the smile on our faces. Parents are greeted with respect and families are so happy we are there. They are appreciative that Nutrition for Learning is still there even though schools are closed.

Many have commented that Nutrition for Learning being there is bigger than just the food. It is an outing for some and to see happy volunteer faces makes their day a little brighter too.

This afternoon, I ran out to grab some groceries. A lady I have never met was walking out of the grocery store. She stopped and asked if I work for Nutrition for Learning (I am assuming she saw me get out my jeep, with the Nutrition for Learning magnets). I said yes, I am a volunteer. She was so thankful for everything we do. She kept thanking me and genuinely told me to stay safe… That’s what makes this so rewarding: how the community appreciates the service we’re providing to those in need now more than ever.

Across the country, through the COVID-19 Emergency Fund, Breakfast Club of Canada collaborates with community organizations to ensure children receive the nutrition they need during this crisis. Stay in touch for new stories on our #LocalHeroes!

Your donation can help make a difference – right now.

MAKE A DONATION

 

It is no surprise that food insecurity is a problem faced by many children and youth in Canada every single day. Before the COVID-19 pandemic more than 1 million Canadian children were affected by food insecurity, and the current crisis has put even more pressure on families to ensure their children are being nourished. This includes the 250,000 children who were receiving a nutritious breakfast through their school’s breakfast program with the support of Breakfast Club of Canada before school closures. 

To help in combating this issue, the Club set up an Emergency Fund to reach children and youth outside of school by supporting community organizations, schools, Indigenous communities, and other groups supporting food-insecure families during these challenging times. Any community organization or school in Canada working to provide food-relief initiatives for children and their families were invited to apply!

Since then, the Club has allocated special grants to more than 800 organizations and schools! Whether it be through a mobile breakfast program in Kitchener, Ontario, food hampers in Northwest Territories or distributing gift cards in Vancouver, British Columbia, organizations and volunteers have stepped up to do their part. Creative solutions for logistics are being utilized and initiatives are being carried out through delivery, pick up, fly-in and mail, all while following public health guidelines.

These efforts have been made possible thanks to the generosity and altruistic spirit of our wonderful partners and donors across Canada. Thanks to their support, the Club was able to help support hundreds of thousands of children and youth in accessing nutritious foods during these troubling times. A job well done to all!

Toronto Foundation for Success, Ontario

On a normal day, over 200,000 kids across Toronto get nutritious breakfast and snacks through their school-based Student Nutrition Programs (SNPs); but these are not normal times. Schools are closed and children are still hungry. To help fill this gap, the Toronto Foundation for Student Success worked with various partners to find a way to get food out to kids who need it, in the safest and fastest way possible.  “To date we have reached out to the families of 95,000 students. This is our Food for Kids Program,” says Sandra Best, Senior Director, Strategic Planning, Donor Relations & Communications at TFSS.

The Food for Kids Program is recognized as part of the City of Toronto’s Emergency Operation Centre’s food security response. Without the loaned resources and the team of 11 volunteers from KPMG’s Management Consulting practice Food for Kids wouldn’t have gotten off the ground.  Without funding from donors – from individuals to wonderful organizations – they wouldn’t be able to fund the program. Without help from school boards they wouldn’t be able to get the message out directly to families or verify information.

“The initial challenge was to raise enough funds to nourish our children. This isn’t a new challenge, but it certainly is acute with the COVID-19 crisis.” The next challenge was to find a way, in a very short time, to effectively get support out to families. Food for Kids knew that families were going out to shop for groceries, so the idea of grocery cards that enabled families to supplement their budgets and get specific foods needed for their families was the best option.

So far, 70,000 food cards, representing 2,100,000 meals have been delivered directly to families, along with coupons for food. For the duration of the COVID-19 crisis, Food for Kids will send out additional support to these families as they become available. Sometimes a simple idea can make an enormous difference. With this initiative, families are able to buy the food they need to meet cultural and dietary requirements, while observing social distancing and maintaining dignity. According to Best, “We now have an excellent system to put in place if/when future COVID-19 waves emerge and for any future emergency situations.”

The program will continue through the summer for as long as funds are available.

“This really is a marvellous example of communities right across Toronto coming together to support our children. With our staff and volunteers from KPMG, we all feel a bit “blessed” to be part of this project!”

Umimmak School, Nunavut

Umimmak School, located in Grise Fiord, Nunavut, the most northern community in Canada, is a hub for student nutrition. For many of the 25 K-12 students, school is where you eat. The small community faces unique challenges to food access due to their extremely remote location on Ellesmere Island.  Weather permitting, planes are scheduled only twice a week carrying fresh foods for the community, and due to the size of the hamlet finding employment is a challenge for the 140 residents.  Umimmak School and the community are closely connected as the school offers a healthy breakfast every day which, for many of the students, is the one sure meal they receive. With the onset of the Covid-19 crisis and the school closure, teachers were deeply concerned about how students would access the nutrition they need.

Through her network in Nunavut, teacher Zuzanne Mignon was informed of the Breakfast Club of Canada Covid-19 Emergency Grant and knew funding would greatly benefit not only students but their families as well.  Using emergency funds, the school now distributes a breakfast program replacement basket to each student that contains fruits, cereal, milk, peanut butter, eggs and of course, a helping of schoolwork. With the Breakfast Club of Canada Emergency Grant helping to fill the breakfast food gap, additional support from the local Food Bank and Co-op store has provided each family with lunch foods for a week and other household essentials like bleach, paper towels and wipes.

The school orders a barge of dry foods at the beginning of each year that fully stocks their pantry and now that the school is open to teachers, leftover pantry items are included in breakfast baskets.  According to Ms. Mignon, the feedback has been very positive and she is welcomed with warmth, joy and sometimes tears when visiting students’ homes. Students will have to wait until the fall to return to school but there is hope that breakfast baskets will continue providing families with the foods they need during this challenging time.

Surrey School District, BC

Like all school districts in Canada, Surrey School District suspended in-class instruction to curb the spread of COVID-19. Though schools were closed, the school district was committed to ensuring that their students still had access to meals that were normally provided by their school-based meal programs. Prior to the pandemic more than 2,100 students used the district’s meal program regularly, so it was essential that the program remained running despite the change in circumstances.

With the help of school staff and volunteers, Surrey School district was able to adapt their programs and have been safely providing daily nutritious meals to students who are now learning from home. Operations have been set up in nine schools across the district, with a combination of drive-through and in-person pickup.  Upwards of 3,800 healthy and nutritious “grab and go” meals are prepared and distributed daily.

“The continuation of the meal program during the pandemic was a priority for our district,” explains Laurie Larsen, Chair of the Surrey Board of Education. “In light of what’s happening globally, we didn’t want our students or their families to have one more thing to worry about.”

Though the program may not look the same, the goal to continue to feed and nourish kids still remains the same. Way to go to, Surrey School District!!