Colleen Dunnet: Sweet Inspiration

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!

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