“Your organization made such a huge difference in my life. I never thought one day I’d be able to say THANK YOU!”
Geneviève Everell is the wiz behind Sushi à la maison. With 10 cookbooks published, some 30 food products available on supermarket shelves and two restaurants in Montreal and Quebec City, hers is a truly remarkable rags-to-riches story. And yet, she has no qualms about delving into the trials and tribulations of her childhood.
“They say kids have it easy. That may be the case for some, but for others childhood is little more than a pipedream and they’re forced to grow up way too fast.” (Translation of a quote on her official website)
School breakfast programs changed Geneviève’s life. Breakfast Club of Canada helped mitigate the food insecurity she experienced at home. Despite her poverty-stricken upbringing, she maintains a “glass half full” outlook. Because everything she has gone through makes her who she is today.
To find out more about everybody’s favourite “sushipreneur,” we asked her a few questions about her school years and her breakfast program memories.
BCC: Hi, Geneviève! Thanks for agreeing to talk to us about your experience. To start off, what was the food situation like at home when you were growing up?
Geneviève: At my house, getting food on the table was always a bit of a scramble. We’d go to food banks and church basements, but what we got there wasn’t always that appetizing. Fortunately, my mom was a really good cook. She’d always manage to whip up something amazing with a tray of frozen sausages and a few carrots. I often saw her go without so that I’d get enough to eat. I remember on the first of the month, she’d always do something special, but it never lasted. The rest of the time, we’d scrape by just to get three meals a day. And breakfast often fell by the wayside.
BCC: There are lots of reasons kids don’t eat breakfast at home. Some people’s mornings are just too rushed, or there may be a long bus ride in to school. Other kids simply like having breakfast with their friends. In your case, it was because your family often couldn’t afford it. Did you realize back then there was a difference between you and the other children?
Geneviève: I thought it was normal not to eat breakfast at home. I didn’t think any of my friends did either. I started to clue in when I would go on sleepovers at homes where they were better off financially. But I had other friends from food-insecure families who were in the same boat as me, so I didn’t feel singled out.
BCC: Do you have any memories of the breakfast program you used to go to? Did you enjoy yourself?
Geneviève: Having the breakfast program in my life was a BLESSING. I was very lucky you were there for me. Not only for breakfast but, to be brutally frank, I’d even go back for leftovers when the lunch bell went off. That was my midday meal.
BCC: Do you think hunger had any adverse effects on your life?
Geneviève: Anxiety, probably, and worry about whether or not there’d be enough to eat. That was the worst part of it. I didn’t talk about it very often. I was admittedly too proud for my own good.
BCC: During this back-to-school season, 1 out of 3 children across the country will be going to school on an empty stomach. How do you feel when you hear a statistic like that?
Geneviève: I have to say it floors me. My first reaction is, “It’s 2020! How can that be?” It’s as if our brains can’t process the sheer magnitude of the situation. And it’s happening right under our noses. The people who are having trouble feeding their kids could be your friends, your neighbours or your co-workers.
Knowing that 1 out of 3 Canadian children don’t get breakfast in the morning breaks my heart. When you’re young and growing, eating before you go to school is CRUCIAL. It obviously helps kids concentrate and do well in class. But it’s not just about filling their bellies: it’s about giving them hope, making them feel like they have someone to turn to for help and support, and in some cases giving them a way out, which is what it did for me.
Our sincere thanks to Geneviève Everell for opening up her heart to us. If this interview struck a chord with you, be sure to go to her website to learn more about her story.
Breakfast Club of Canada’s back-to-school fundraising campaign will help the more than 2 million children who would otherwise start their day hungry for food instead of hungry for knowledge. Help us reach out to as many of them as possible by making an online donation or by texting CLUB to 20222.