Many people may not be aware, but the Breakfast Club of Canada operates hot meals programs in 11 schools throughout the Okanagan.
They’ve recently celebrated their 20-year anniversary and have opened up 14 more schools in the past few months, and now have 129 schools taking part across the province.
“Our mission overall is to make sure that every kid in Canada has a healthy, nutritious breakfast every day before class, if they can’t get that at home for whatever reason,” says Robin Ryan, the groups provincial coordinator for BC.
“We work with different schools to support them with funding and expertise. So we provide them with meal plans and recipe books, things that will let them create healthy meals as cheaply as possible.”
The program operates at George Pringle Elementary and Sensisyusten House of Learning in West Kelowna, five schools in Penticton, three in Salmon Arm and one in Vernon.
Some of the common menu items include omelets, fried eggs, sandwiches, oatmeal, healthier pancakes and other similar items. The Breakfast Club of Canada also runs a monthly nutrition contest.
“We pick a certain vegetable, in October it was pumpkin, and we sent out a number of different pumpkin recipes to the schools. Some run with those and others use their own, and the schools that have the best ideas, we give them a big fruit and vegetable grant at the end of the month," Ryan explains.
In order to become part of the meals program, prospective schools must first go through a community needs assessment with the club, outlining their size, volunteer interest and community support.
“If they want to be cooking hot meals, we make sure they have a stove, they’ve got a good sized fridge, freezer – if they’ve got a big enough school,” explains Ryan.
“We supply cutlery, dishware and everything like that. So really from ground up, we supply their entire kitchen if they need that. And then besides expertise and advice, we also send them funding three times per year to help support the running of the breakfast program.”
Ryan says their goal is to build lifelong healthy eating habits.
"For us it's not just filling the kids’ stomachs in the morning, it’s really making sure that not only are they having healthy food, but they’re starting to understand and learn what healthy food really is."
Funding for the 'chefs' is generally provided by the schools themselves, who rely on a member of the staff to cook the meals, shop for food, prep the meals, and any cleanup that is needed.
And many times it’s actually a volunteer who steps into the role and chooses to help out.
“That’s so amazing when the community gets involved like that and those are the programs we see that really flourish."
Ryan says there are currently another 10-15 schools on the wait list in the Okanagan.
Interested schools can apply on the Breakfast Canada website by providing some information about their institution and explaining the realities of their community.
And Ryan says the final decision is not made on a first come, first serve basis.
“If a school shows up that is really vulnerable, and they’ve got good community backing, and look like they can support our program, then we may want to jump on that quickly because we feel it would be a really successful program.