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!!

Little girl spreading jam on melba toast

 

Now here’s a green idea from St-François-de-Sales municipality in Quebec for reducing a school breakfast program’s carbon footprint and helping students keep their desk space clean and tidy!

All students at École Boisjoli school received a reusable “école-O” placemat they can use to eat their breakfast in the classroom and bring in utensils from home.

Designed by a local craftswoman, the placemat comes with a zippered pouch and is made of lined, spill- and stain-resistant material. To take it home after they’re done eating, students simply roll it back up and put it in their school bag.

By using washable utensils for breakfast every day, students can do something good for the environment and keep more than 10,000 plastic forks, knives and spoons from being thrown out in the course of a year!

Breakfast Program During The Pandemic

Since the beginning of this school year, we have had the opportunity to exchange ideas, resources and challenges with several schools through email communications, phone calls and webinars. We know that it has been an uncertain start to the school year with many changes influenced by COVID-19. We’ve been doing our best to provide you with as much support and as many resources as possible to ensure that you all provide a nutritious breakfast to students while navigating changes and challenges. If you haven’t already, we encourage you to check out resources we shared last month: Recommended Single Serve Products, Sample – Adapted Breakfast Menu and our Toolkit – Breakfast Program Adapted COVID-19.

Here are some creative ideas introduced by a few schools that joined various Breakfast Club of Canada Open Houses (webinars). While they don’t cover every aspect of breakfast programming, they show that many of you have created out-of-the-box ways to navigate this challenging time and still provide a nutritious breakfast each morning! If any of you have additional ideas that you’ve employed, we’d love to hear about them – please don’t hesitate to share them with your Club coordinator, and thank you to those who have shared the ideas below with us:

Pre-Order Menus

When possible, some schools can use a pre-order menu for their class bins, where teachers/students know the weekly menu, and the class completes an order in advance. The class simply marks what they would like on the menu with the basket (x boxes of cereal for Friday) and bins for the classroom are stocked based on the orders returned with the baskets.

Vending Machines

While some schools are not allowed to use vending machines anymore, some are looking to use them to offer pre-packaged, healthy items with sanitizing stations next to them, and use funding for administration to stock the machines so students can collect a free meal there.

Adaptive Menu Ideas

A school board restricted from serving any fresh fruit considered ordering through a distributor like Sysco (pre-packaged apple slices and fruit cups that are sealed individually). *We recommend the fruit cups that are packed in water as opposed to syrup, as these have much less added sugar.

A grocery store is doing delivery of cheese strings and vegetables that are cut up. Individual milk cartons are also delivered.

Freezing yogurt with popsicle sticks can eliminate the need for spoons.

Rather than buying cheese strings, a school is buying pre-sliced blocks of cheese and cuts the slices in two, pairing with whole wheat crackers.

One school that can prepare food purchased a cheese slicer and makes quick cheese sticks from the large block to add to individual snack packs; cheese is much less expensive that way.

Here are some highlights of questions and responses shared from schools across the country:

Q: How are you planning to serve breakfast now with COVID changes?

  • The staff are scheduled to support the program as part of their responsibilities in the school. They prepare fresh foods and support clean-up at the end of the day. Bins are organized and teachers pick up their class bin every morning. Teachers are the ones who safely handle the food after preparation.
  • Just one person in the kitchen serves kids at the counter restaurant-style, with a guided path – one in and out at a time. All food will be prepped, and students follow the arrows, choose their food and go.
  • We are making breakfast burritos ahead, then freezing them. When taking them out to serve for breakfast, we warm in the microwave or warmer.

Q: Serving breakfast to 18 classes is impossible so I’m struggling to get food to students.

  • That is why I give the food to teachers. There just isn’t enough time for one person to distribute to all the classes.
  • I take my cart of foods to each classroom, so that I can check in and make sure that everyone is getting what they need.

Q: Are we allowed to reach out to organizations such as Knights of Columbus to ask for extra funding?

  • Solution from a Club coordinator : Certainly! We always encourage schools to look to multiple avenues of support for their program to ensure that it is sustainable, and local groups are a great choice (Rotary groups and Lions Clubs among others).
Lady with paper brown bags and breakfast itmes like oranges, bananas, muffins

The announcement of heading back to school after months of school closures undoubtedly caused some anxiety for school staff, parents and students alike. The unknown can be unsettling, and breakfast program coordinators at the schools had to act quickly to ensure students would still receive the nutrition they need to succeed. Bedford Road Collegiate in Saskatoon, SK, shared how being flexible with their program model in these uncertain times has been key for their current program’s success.

Last year, their breakfast program was set up in a high-traffic area outside of the office near the school’s front entrance. Students would take breakfast from the breakfast station and then head to their classrooms. This model posed some challenges for the school this year, though, as they moved into a student-cohort model. Each cohort must use different doors to enter and exit the school, so they could no longer have breakfast in a single centralized space. Students and additional volunteers are also not allowed to serve food, posing a challenge for getting breakfasts ready and served to students each morning. Lastly, they were not able to serve food as openly as they did before and became limited to more single-serve type foods.

The solution for Bedford Road Collegiate was to start making individual breakfast bags for students and put them at all five of the cohort doors. The teachers already assigned to hallway supervision have been welcoming students into the school each morning and giving them their breakfast bags if they would like one. Because the school is not able to run their usual lunch canteen, the staff who typically runs the canteen has been helping to batch cook and prepare the breakfast bags for students instead. They are serving more individually packaged foods like yogurt, cheese, milk, fruits, cereals, and even homemade muffins and healthy breakfast cookies. One of their concerns when it started up again in September was not being sure how many bags to prepare each morning, but it seems the number of students accessing the breakfast program has not changed too drastically at this point.

Now that they have been doing things this way for a number of weeks, they have gotten into the groove and the program is running quite smoothly!

 

(Photo : Happiness Of Anna on Unsplash)

When the pandemic crisis struck, Breakfast Club of Canada quickly set up an Emergency Fund to ensure children and their families had access to healthy meals amid widespread school closures and breakfast program interruptions. Three months later, we are still receiving messages that speak volumes about the difference these efforts have made.

Here’s what one mother had to say about the help she has received from Regroupement Jeunesse en Marche du Québec, which was awarded a special grant by BCC:

“Hello,

I’d like to take a moment to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your donation. I have three young children, each with a different diagnosis (autism, severe language delay, behavioural disorder). On a regular day, my routine is already a challenge, but right now, in the middle of all this uncertainty, the word ‘challenge’ doesn’t quite cover it.

I’m writing this note so you understand how much your gift means to me. The food hamper was full to the brim with good things. There was nothing to sort through, clean or throw out. And there was respect, selflessness, compassion and love in every bite.

I thought it was IMPORTANT to share this with you.

Thank you for your generosity and your support.

F.”

Thanks to the combined efforts of many people, the donations we have received to date and the support of a number of partners who have joined with us to help the most vulnerable members of our society, we have been able to distribute special grants to organizations across Canada. Recently, the TELUS Friendly Future Foundation also contributed a generous $100,000 donation to help with this initiative. On behalf of children across the country, thank to the TELUS Friendly Future Foundation and all our partners for their ongoing support during this crisis!

You want to help make a difference?

MAKE A DONATION

A few months ago, a school in the Aroland First Nation community in Ontario received a special grant from Breakfast Club of Canada’s Emergency Fund. Bill Beaucage, the school’s principal, sent us a moving letter to express his gratitude. A must-read!

Dear Breakfast Club of Canada,

Aroland’s Breakfast Food Hamper Program is extremely essential for the children and families in our community. Volunteers from our school and community are assisting us with packing hampers and delivering them to all 114 homes in Aroland. In my eyes, these volunteers, hamper packers and deliverers are the true heroes that are the reason why this program is and continues to be a success in our community.


“I feel awesome because now people get to have things to cook on, fruit to eat, breakfast.” – Melissa Megan (Volunteer Packer)

Every second Friday, a food order is delivered from Daneff’s Food Market in Geraldton, Ontario, to Aroland. These hampers are providing the essential breakfast food items families need in our absence. Grill/griddle combination sets, frying pans and spatulas were also delivered to all our homes.

It has been gratifying reading all the “thank you” comments that families and households are sharing with us. One comment in particular this past week said, “Thank you so much. This was over the top.”


“I am happy to deliver to my community. It just helps everybody in living properly here.” – Rolland Towedo (Volunteer Delivery Driver)

Please know that every dollar that your organization has provided Aroland First Nation from your very generous donors is making a huge difference and impact at the very doorstep of every household in the community.

Thank you to Breakfast Club of Canada for your financial support and the generosity of your donors during these unprecedented times. Thanks to all of you, great work is taking place in small communities like Aroland, Ontario, and across our great country.

Stay safe, stay well.

Bill Beaucage
Principal
Johnny Therriault School, Aroland

With our back-to-school campaign at Breakfast Club of Canada now in full swing, there’s no better time to check in with the two wonderful and big-hearted women who have stepped up to serve as our campaign spokespeople. Read on to find out more about what makes them tick.

Jessi and her lovely twins. Follow her on Instagram!

JESSI CRUICKSHANK

We are delighted to welcome Jessi Cruickshank to the Breakfast Club of Canada family, as the English spokesperson for the #StopChildHunger campaign.

Jessi’s career kicked off with MTV Canada, where she appeared in a number of successful programs, earning a slew of accolades and a faithful fan base along the way. She then turned her on-screen talents to CTV, E!, The CW and CBC as the host of a number of highly popular shows.

She recently created a new Facebook Watch series, New Mom, Who Dis?, which takes a fun, refreshing look at various aspects of first-time parenthood. As the mother of two twin boys, she is keenly aware of the importance and benefits of breakfast on early child development.

“Making my kids breakfast in the morning is a privilege. This year, because of the repercussions of COVID-19, 1 in 3 children will go to school on an empty stomach. When I heard that, I wanted to do anything I could to help.” – Jessi Cruickshank

We are proud to have these two remarkable women on board to shine the spotlight on the work we do and to raise public awareness about the problem of food insecurity as the school year gets underway.

Valérie and her stepdaughters. Follow her on Instagram!

VALÉRIE ROBERTS

Valérie Roberts was a natural choice to front the #StopChildHunger campaign within the French-speaking community. Valérie has been a familiar face on the small screen since 2007, when she won the coveted “VJ recherché” contest at Musique Plus. She has since appeared in numerous programs on V Télé, ICI Radio-Canada and Vrak TV. Her radio work includes stints with 96.9 CKOI and as a cultural commentator at 98.5 FM. She is also a writer and a regular contributor to such magazines as Clin d’oeil and Cool!, as well as enVedette.ca and lookdujour.ca.

“I can’t bear to think that there are students out there whose ability to learn is being compromised by a lack of food in the morning.” – Valérie Roberts

As a stepmom to two girls, and having recently written a book on the topic, she was the ideal person to team up with Breakfast Club of Canada for the back-to-school campaign in order to make sure even more children across the country start their day with a healthy breakfast.

Add your voice to ours and become a BCC ambassador!

Does our campaign resonate with you? Would you like to show your support for Breakfast Club of Canada and help fight child food insecurity? Contact us about becoming an ambassador: Janic.Aubin-Bergeron@breakfastclubcanada.org.

You would like to make a donation?

Please give online or text CLUB to 20222. Your generosity means the world to us – and to them! THANK YOU!