A challenging year for breakfast programs

By Gordon Lambie

According to Lisa Clowery, Director of Corporate Partnerships and Foundations with the Breakfast Club of Canada, 2020 has been a year full of added challenges when it comes to ensuring that children don’t go to school hungry. From external volunteers being banned from schools over health concerns to new restrictions on how food can be shared, the organization has had to completely re-imagine the way that it carries out its mission.
“We will be preparing more of a cold, pre-packaged menu,” Clowery said, adding that whereas the organization usually relies on large groups of corporate and community volunteers to help run breakfast programs in schools, the responsibility for distributing the prepackaged food will now almost certainly fall on teachers who are willing to take it up.
“It will be a lot more work,” she continued, estimating that the increased labour at a time when there is an increase in demand for 20 to 45 per cent will see the cost of the work of the Breakfast Club of Canada increase to as much as three times its pre-pandemic levels in some areas. The organization estimates that roughly one in three children will go to school on an empty stomach this fall due to factors that range from poverty to lack of options or time.
This week Club Piscine Super Fitness, the pool and patio supply chain, announced a donation of $132,464 to the Breakfast Club of Canada based on a campaign that committed one per cent of sales in the month of July to the cause. Clowery said that this kind of fundraising is a big part of what has kept the organization going over the years and will play a significant role in covering the rising costs of the program in the face of Covid restrictions.
According to the director, her organization has typically worked directly out of schools when it comes to the Province of Quebec, whereas programs in other provinces tend to be run through partner organizations. This past spring that was turned on its head, however, as the Breakfast Club offered emergency funding to food banks and volunteer centres in this province as well.
“When the schools closed down breakfast clubs did too,” said Mylène Labonté, Director of the R.H. Rediker Volunteer Center in Stanstead, saying that hers was one of the community groups across Quebec that received funding from the Breakfast Club of Canada to help fill the gap. The Stanstead Volunteer centre ended up offering the emergency breakfast program up until the end of July, and Labonté said that if the funding were made available, they would be up for doing so again in the future.
“We’d certainly look into applying again,” she said, noting that there are a lot questions but not many answers when it comes to whether or not schools will be able to restart their breakfast programs in “the great unknown” of next week.
Although Clowery said that decisions about how to move forward will depend on how things go in the schools this fall, but the organization feels prepared to shift back to its emergency support model if a second wave forces the closure of the schools once again.
“The kids need this,” she said, pointing to the many positive benefits that can be tied to reducing hunger in school aged children such as increased academic success and lower rates of bullying.
Under normal circumstances the Breakfast Club of Canada helps to feed more than 250,000 children across the country on a daily basis. For more information on the work of the organization visit https://www.breakfastclubcanada.org/

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