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!!