Business closures brought about by the coronavirus have led to a rise in unemployment and poverty. The number of people experiencing food insecurity across the country has increased as a result, and experts believe this figure may double before the end of the year2.
The consequences of the pandemic on young people around the world will be devastating. Experts warn that children’s mental and physical health are at risk and their exposure to food insecurity is greater6.
From the disruption in their daily routine to the reduced availability of school services, children already at risk will be the ones suffering most from the crisis in all aspects of their lives. For children who don’t get enough to eat at home or who come from a violent household, school is a place of safety and nurturing7. Indigenous children living in rural and remote communities are particularly vulnerable due to overcrowded housing, lack of clean water and limited access to hospitals8.
To better assess the need for school food programs, Breakfast Club of Canada has developed scenarios in which we estimate the current increase of children at risk of going to school on an empty stomach.
The latest indicators point to an 80% increase in food insecurity in Canada. This means that more than 2 million students are at risk of experiencing hunger on a daily basis. That’s a staggering 1 out of every 3 children in the country.
Based on our student nutrition experience and the feedback from our national network (schools, school boards, regional and provincial partners), we foresee that this issue will impact the number of children and youth attending school food programs. This will undeniably influence the need for programs such as the ones supported by Breakfast Club of Canada in the upcoming school year.
These scenarios highlight one important fact:
Food insecurity is a major problem in Canada.
Together, we need to ensure the next generation has access to nutritious food so they can succeed in school and in life.
Working together with schools and hundreds of community organizations, Breakfast Club of Canada is part of the social safety net that supports thousands of families, especially in trying times such as these.
From March to August, we pivoted our operations to help provide food, funding and delivery services to schools and community organizations in every province and territory. An emergency fund was put into place to provide grants and assistance for families and students, thanks to the generosity of the corporate community, foundations and the general public. In the span of a mere three months, our reach went from feeding 250,000 students daily to 683,921, as of August 2020.
We have continued our advocacy efforts and collaborated with various government ministries to raise the awareness of food insecurity and its impact on learning and academic success for millions of children. Funding has been invested federally and provincially to support community food projects benefiting vulnerable families.
In the coming months, we will continue to empower and support hundreds of communities with their school meal programs. Healthy eating habits are important factors in children’s health and well-being, allowing them to better learn and thrive.
Where do we want these efforts to lead us? We would like to see the government pledge that hunger will no longer be an obstacle to our children’s potential. Canada remains the only G7 country that does not have a national school food program. As a society, we need to protect and nourish our youth, both during this crisis and beyond.