Children at the table

 

In June 2018, the ministère de la Famille du Québec asked Breakfast Club of Canada to take on a special task: setting up a pilot project to bring breakfast programs to young children.

 

The three-year project involved 15 educational childcare facilities (early childcare centres (CPEs) and daycares) located in urban, rural and Indigenous communities. Together, the 15 selected centres serve over 400 children aged 5 and under.

 

Three years later, we are proud to report on the results of this unique and very meaningful project.

Children eating toast

A Big Win for Kids

In September 2021, we met with the team at the Chapeaux Ronds et Bottillons childcare centre to get their feedback and learn more about what a breakfast program has meant for their young charges.

With 108 babies, toddlers and preschoolers enrolled in the program, Chapeaux Ronds et Bottillons could not be more pleased.

 

“With the Club, we can offer a wide variety [of food]. The fruit we used to give in the morning has now been moved to lunch. So it didn’t just improve our breakfast selection, but also all the other food we provide in the centre,” said General Director Martine Desjardins.

 

Daphnée St-François, an experienced educator who works at the centre, added that breakfast is a heartwarming moment for her and her group. The children can take all the time they like to eat, and she says the experience has been a positive one in every respect.

Toddlers at the table

Less Rushed Mornings, Less Stressed Families

Staff aren’t the only ones to have noticed the benefits of a breakfast program. Audrey Jacob, whose daughter attends Chapeaux Ronds et Bottillons, has seen first-hand the impact on her and the whole family.

“The breakfast service offered at the centre really eases the parents’ burdens. […] We really feel that there’s a collaboration between the centre, the breakfast program and our own family routine. My daughter is always very excited to go to daycare, not only to see her friends and her educator, but also to share an enjoyable breakfast.”

Little girl eating breakfast

A Helping Hand that Makes all the Difference

 

“It was easy to utilize [the Club’s] 27 years of experience from primary and secondary schools [in educational childcare centres],” said Claudine Dessureault, National Senior Advisor, Purchasing and Inventory.

 

Claudine has been working on this project from the outset, providing support and guidance to centres in setting up their programs. Over the three-year span of the pilot project, she has also been able to better define the part BCC plays in the operation.

She explained that “[BCC’s role] is to work alongside the community, to advise on nutrition and to offer products suitable for children that also meet the quality standards of both childcare centres and Canada’s Food Guide.”

Getting a program of this nature off the ground has allowed BCC to broaden its reach to encompass the entire spectrum of childhood, from 0 to 18, and instil healthy eating habits early in life. It also ensures consistency in the services offered by BCC.

 

The success of the pilot project is excellent news. We are proud it will continue and hope to expand our services to even more children in this age group.

 

Be sure to watch the video of our visit to learn more about the pilot project and its positive repercussions.

In Back-to-School open house sessions across Canada, participants shared some of the challenges they faced in breakfast programming for this school year. Our team has compiled top ideas and suggestions provided by fellow schools in response to topics like incorporating volunteers, reducing costs and facilitating meal preparation. The open house sessions are very valuable as they provide solutions from and for diverse school communities and contexts.

We are thankful for all who participated in knowledge sharing and hope we’ve adequately captured your tips, as follows:

 

Incorporating volunteers
  • Leveraging community groups as volunteers: Various schools have explored engaging community groups such as the local RCMP, faith groups, businesses or sports teams to help with different aspects of breakfast program planning, including purchasing, delivery, meal prepping and packaging. Consider this if your school regulations allow for external volunteers.
  • Working with nearby high schools: Is there a high school close to you? One school provided a unique suggestion to partner with a high school. The older students prepare and package meals and then walk them over in the morning and drop them off at the school entrance. High school students can apply this experience toward volunteer hours or as a special project for a food safety and food education class. This is a good solution for schools that are not allowed to have extra volunteers in their food prep areas.
  • Using student volunteers in a community service program: Some of our schools that are allowed to work with student volunteers have chosen to include breakfast programming prep work as a part of students’ community service hours. This helps students give back to their community, hone leadership skills and ease the stress on program coordinators. For an example of this idea in action, check out our newsletter article for a story about student volunteers at Georges P. Vanier School.
  • Engaging staff members: Consider holding a staff meeting to gauge whether your staff are willing and have the time to help. With restrictions in place in many schools, dedicated staff members have stepped in to run the breakfast program instead of volunteers. One school started an “above and beyond” club with opportunities for staff to pitch in in extra areas of need, including breakfast program prep and delivery. Other schools have assigned breakfast club responsibilities to staff on a weekly rotating basis. A pair of staff members can take care of prep, delivery and clean-up one week and then hand over the reins to a different pair the next. Having more staff members involved can help spread the work around.
    • Tip: To help keep staff motivated and feel appreciated, consider hosting a special thank-you breakfast on a non-instructional day or incorporating breakfast program responsibilities into their workable hours.
Reduced prep work

For those of you who are prevented from having extra help due to COVID restrictions, an alternative is to focus on reducing the amount of work required to prepare, serve and clean up after breakfast:

  • Some schools that used to bake muffins now make smaller “muffin bars.” You can make more bars with fewer ingredients, and the tray is a lot easier to wash than a muffin tin. Spread your favourite muffin batter on a baking tray that is well greased or lined with parchment paper or a silicone sheet. Baking times may vary, depending on the thickness of the batter. You’ll find lots of recipes for muffin bars online.
  • Similarly, some schools make oven-baked oatmeal pancakes on a baking sheet and slice them into single servings. They are easy to pour, flip and serve, and they save a lot of time.
  • It was suggested that students bring in their own containers, cutlery and bottles and wash them at home to reduce clean-up time for schools. This also cuts down on disposable waste and can save money for schools who had been using paper plates and plastic cutlery.
  • Some schools recommended having students wash their own dishes in the classroom before returning them to the kitchen. This can save on time and effort, especially for schools with limited dishwashing capacity.
Cost savings
  • Financial support programs may be able to help seek out an independent or wholesale grocer in your community for produce like berries and vegetables. Independent grocers are sometimes able to offer lower prices on locally grown foods. A school in Cochrane, Alberta, found this to be very cost-effective for their breakfast program, which serves hundreds of students.
  • Buying large items like blocks of cheese and dividing them into smaller servings is often more budget-friendly than buying individual portions like cheese strings.
  • Enquire about available discounts for school breakfast programs at grocery stores.
  • Stretch every dollar you spend and reduce food waste by sending leftover food home with students or offering them an end-of-day snack as the exit the building.

 

We recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to cover such a diverse range of schools across the country, but we do hope that you can use one or two of these suggestions to make your breakfast program easier to run this year. Once again, we send out a huge thanks to everyone who participated in our back-to-school open house sessions and shared their innovative solutions with their peers. Your engagement, insight and support are greatly appreciated. We hope to hear more of your tried-and-true hacks and solutions at other sessions later in the year!


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New Ambassadors for BCC

The pair want to raise awareness and help provide children with important opportunities

 

Boucherville, July 19, 2021 – Breakfast Club of Canada is proud to announce that Lindsey Butterworth and Justin Kent are joining the BCC community as ambassadors. The British Columbia natives are eager to contribute to fundraising initiatives as well as promote the Club’s values in order to provide children with important nutritional and educational opportunities.

 

“I have a passion for health promotion and a keen interest in advocating healthy behaviour through adequate nutrition in youth,” explained Lindsey Butterworth. “Learning about food security in my undergraduate degree and volunteering with the breakfast program at my local community centre really instilled the importance of access to a healthy breakfast in me. I want to continue to promote and increase accessibility to breakfast programs across the country with Breakfast Club of Canada.”

 

A Canadian middle-distance runner, Butterworth is set to represent Canada at the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games. She began her running career while attending Simon Fraser University and is a two-time NCAA Division II 800m champion. She graduated from university in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Health Sciences. Butterworth currently trains in Burnaby, British Columbia, while working full time as an academic advisor for student athletes.

 

Also joining the Club’s circle of ambassadors is Justin Kent. A Canadian distance runner, he represented Canada at the 2017 Jeux de la Francophonie and the 2019 World Cross Country Championships. In 2019, he won the Vancouver Sun Run, becoming the first local to win since 1992. Kent trains in Burnaby, British Columbia, and is a coach with Mile2Marathon, a community-centered coaching program.

 

“I believe in the importance of equal opportunity for youth to have access to proper nutrition,” said Kent. “Growing up in Surrey, British Columbia, an inner-city school system, I witnessed the positive impact of a breakfast program. I hope I can make a difference so that youth are properly fuelled to achieve their goals. No one should chase their dreams on an empty stomach.”

 

The pair will be actively involved in the Club’s fundraising activities as well as growing awareness on the importance of breakfast programs in Canada. Eager to kick-off this partnership, Butterworth and Kent are selling their personal branded Olympic t-shirts, with all proceeds going to the Club. They have also launched their own fundraising page to help raise money for the cause.

 

“We are extremely pleased to welcome Lindsey and Justin to our BCC family,” stated Tommy Kulczyk, General Manager of Breakfast Club of Canada. “It is an honour to work with ambassadors who care deeply about the work we do and who help support our mission. Lindsey and Justin are passionate about nutrition and want to make a difference in the lives of children in Canada. They are great role models and we look forward to collaborating with them on many upcoming projects.”

 

About Breakfast Club of Canada

Accredited by Imagine Canada for its effective governance, the Club provides much more than breakfast: its approach is based on commitment, self-esteem and capacity development using an optimal formula adapted to local needs. Breakfast Club of Canada helps feed more than 257,000 children and youth in 1,887 schools across the country. To learn more, visit breakfastclubcanada.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

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For more information:

Victoria Jaklin
Advisor, Corporate Communications and Public Relations
Breakfast Club of Canada
victoria.jaklin@breakfastclubcanada.org
514-929-6805

Kids putting hands together on the table

Breakfast Club of Canada applauds the federal government’s steps to address food insecurity as announced in Budget 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated economic and food insecurity for families across the country and has hit the most vulnerable the hardest. The measures announced in today’s budget will take important steps towards supporting Canadian families. 

National and community student nutrition stakeholders have long called for the federal government to establish a National School Food Program to provide access to healthy food to all school-aged children and help them to strive. We know that one of the best ways to provide support for these children and their families is through a national program that provides nutritious meals to children, and that is accessible in schools from coast-to-coast-to-coast. We urge the federal government to deliver on the commitment made in Budget 2019 to work with provincial and territorial governments to establish a National School Food Program. The need for such a program is greater than ever before, with the COVID-19 pandemic increasing the need amongst children and families and disrupting schooling throughout 2020 and 2021.  

A National School Food Program will alleviate food insecurity for children and families as we strive to ensure that no child is left behind – an objective that has become even more crucial in light of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating economic insecurity and hitting the most vulnerable the hardest. A National School Food Program is particularly important to establish quickly, as students and teachers prepare for a return to classrooms for the 2021 school year. A National School Food Program is an essential part of a safe, inclusive, and resilient return to school to position our children for success.  

‘’We thank the federal government for taking important steps towards addressing food insecurity. We look forward to continuing to work with the federal government, provincial and territorial partners, and community stakeholders to implement the National School Food Program as soon as possible,’’ says Daniel Germain, President and Founder of Breakfast Club of Canada. 

Daughter with a backpack on and father with hand around her

Here is the story of Sarah, who attended a breakfast program as a child and was deeply touched by the experience:

Hi! My name’s Sarah. I’m 20.

I’m writing to you today to say thank you.

I used the Club’s services when I was in kindergarten. My mom earned a good living and we always had plenty to eat at home, but when she got cancer, she had to go to work really early in the morning. So I was always one of the first kids at the daycare when it opened. Someone suggested she enrol me in the breakfast program, since what I ate at home at 5 a.m. was a distant memory by the time classes started at 9 a.m.

You changed my life forever.

The TLC you gave me when I was a little girl had a huge impact on me. You made me feel welcome every day. You asked how my mom was doing. You made sure my mornings were never dreary. I still remember when one of us would have a birthday, we’d get to pick a present out of a wooden basket.

I was devastated when I had to leave the breakfast program! I loved it so much! Even though I’m 20 now, I’m still grateful you took such good care of me.

I send a donation to the Club every year as my personal thank-you. That’s my way of making sure your services are available to another child who needs you as much as I did back then.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Keep up the amazing work! Don’t ever stop!

Sarah

Did you attend a breakfast program as a child and have a story to share? Send it to us through this form or by email at info@breakfastclubcanada.org.

Support children like Sarah by making a donation!

Child with long hair eating a piece of bread

On World Food Day, we would like to highlight the importance of universal access to healthy eating for children across the country.

Did you know that in elementary school, one in three students does not eat an adequate breakfast, and one in four skips breakfast altogether? In high school, the statistic of students who don’t eat breakfast is one in two! (Source: Statistics Canada)

These statistics arise from food insecurity caused by poverty, unhealthy eating habits, as well as stress and time constraints experienced by families. In consequence, this amplifies several social issues, including public health issues.

These statistics are likely to arise from food insecurity caused by poverty, unhealthy eating habits, as well as stress and time constraints experienced by families. In consequence, this amplifies multiple social issues, including public health issues. Food security is said to exist when “all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” (Source: Proof Toronto)

The statistics are worrisome: one in six Canadian children faces food insecurity.

For these reasons, Breakfast Club of Canada works in conjunction with numerous partners and volunteers to feed and educate children, and their communities, in order to overcome youth hunger. In addition, the Club proudly supports the UN’s “Zero Hunger Challenge” to eradicate hunger and malnutrition in all forms by 2030.

However, in order to achieve our goal of feeding 1 million children every day, and ultimately providing a solution for all 15,000 schools across Canada, we need the support of all levels of government – municipal, provincial and federal.

Did you know that Canada is the only country in the G7 that does not offer a national feeding program in schools?

That’s why our ambitious goal is to build a partnership with the federal government by 2020 to eradicate this issue. We want to ensure that all Canadian children have access to a nutritious breakfast. Let’s take part in the Global Movement for #ZeroHunger!

 

Two kids eating and drinking water with blurred background of other children

Today marks the start of a new school year for thousands of young students in Quebec. They will meet their new classmates of the next months, begin building new habits and routines, and start developing trusting relationships with the teachers and school staff who will guide them toward success for the year to come!

During summer break, Breakfast Club of Canada thought about these children. Serving 35,461,913 breakfasts every year in a country as vast as ours is not something that happens overnight. We pour our hearts into preparing and planning for the school year, so that children can focus on succeeding.

We asked school principals, teachers and volunteers who operate breakfast programs to explain what the implementation of a breakfast program entails. From the very start of the implementation of a breakfast program, through the accompaniment of Breakfast Club of Canada, to the official grand opening – this “behind the scenes” video proves that when we work together, we can provide an equal chance of success to ALL children!

 

 

Volunteers with child making breakfast

Every year, Breakfast Club of Canada relies on over 17,500 volunteers across Canada. These individuals are the first point of contact for children who attend their school’s breakfast program.

Day after day, they are present, preparing breakfast in the early morning hours to be ready to serve the children upon their arrival at school. However, breakfast is not their only priority; volunteers are also there to comfort the children, to ask them about their families, or simply to chat and laugh together. Most importantly, they earn the children’s trust.

 

 

“What I love about the club is that, here, the children all come together – it’s like a little family. They are all my children in a way, they’re all in my heart.” – Nadia, Head Volunteer

Adults aren’t the only ones giving their time to the Breakfast Club: other students attending a school where there is a breakfast program have the opportunity to become volunteers. This allows them to gain culinary skills and a sense of responsibility, two things that will come in handy later in life. They are also sensitized to food insecurity, academic success and social and emotional well-being, bringing to light the positive influence they can have on their peers.

 

 

“I started volunteering in grade 5 because I liked seeing kids eat breakfast before school. I knew which kids didn’t eat breakfast, because they complained about how hungry they were all day. I knew that if I was a volunteer there, more of my friends would come eat breakfast at the club!” – Amy, young volunteer

They all come from different generations and backgrounds, but the volunteers all have two things in common: a big heart and a dependable alarm clock! Some volunteer as a family, others on their own. Some have 2 hours to give per week, others come once a month. The Club adapts to the availability of the volunteers, and understands scheduling challenges and the efforts volunteers make to give back to their community. In return, the volunteers get to see smiling faces every morning as the children line up and see the meal that was lovingly prepared for them!

Are you interested in volunteering at a breakfast club near you? Complete this online form!*

We thank all our present (and future) volunteers for their precious help!

* PLEASE NOTE THAT, FOR THE TIME BEING, VOLUNTEERING OPPORTUNITIES ARE AVAILABLE IN QUEBEC ONLY.

 

Children hugging a woman

Today, Breakfast Club of Canada celebrates women! Women who wake up before dawn to take a few minutes to work out before the morning routine starts. Women who put their careers aside to care for their children. Women who work all day long only to start their second shift when they get home in the evening, taking care of their family in the home they built. Women who are volunteers in breakfast clubs, ensuring thousands of children have the energy they need to learn every day. And our two vice-presidents who work with passion and devotion every day to allow as many children as possible to reach their full potential.

 

Women play a big part in our organization, representing 83% of the staff. The same trend prevails in school nutrition programs, which are often run by women (teachers, cooks, monitors, volunteers, etc.) who have access to tools, support and capacity development opportunities. It is not uncommon for many of these social leaders to access higher levels of employment or re-enter the labor market.

By alleviating the morning routine, Breakfast Club of Canada promotes a healthy work-life balance. This viewpoint is shared by many of the participants in the Global Child Nutrition Forum who reported that school nutrition programs promote gender equality.

We would like to thank all the women who are instrumental to our organization and contribute to the well-being of children.

Happy International Women’s Day!

 

 

 

Children sitting around a cafeteria table talking

It’s a shocking fact that 1 in 4 Canadian children start their day hungry, meaning more than a million kids don’t have access to a healthy meal before they go to school. This would be unacceptable anywhere, but in a prosperous country like Canada, this is unimaginable. The time for action is now.

Breakfast programs in our schools have a tremendous impact on a child’s life, on school communities and on families. By providing access to a nutritious meal to our children as they start their day, they learn more easily, and have the chance to develop their full potential.

The 2019 Federal Budget included an unfunded commitment to a National School Food Program. While this commitment is a promising step, without funding the promise is empty and children across the country are kept waiting.

With the federal election fast approaching, we don’t need just a campaign promise, we need action.

Let’s not forget that Canada remains the only country in the G7 that does not have a federally funded school nutrition program.

As the school year comes to an end, our team at Breakfast Club of Canada and our field partners across the country are calling on the government to immediately provide core funding for a National School Food Program to ensure our kids have access to a healthy meal when they return to class in September.

As a nation, we are asking you to stand with us and share our call to action to send a message to the government that our kids can’t wait any longer. With your help, we can ensure that no child starts their day on an empty stomach.

Together, we can make history in our country and make a sustained difference in the lives of children across Canada.

The time is now, their time is now!

Daniel Germain
President and Founder of Breakfast Club of Canada