Schools have opened their doors for a new year, classes have begun, but not all children are arriving for the day will full bellies.
Breakfast Club of Canada is putting out a call for donations for its breakfast programs as it, too, prepares for another school year.
Across Canada, the organization supports breakfast programs that serve roughly 220,000 children daily in 1,600 schools.
In Surrey, the breakfast club says it is supporting programs at 28 schools, serving an estimated 818 children. That’s up from the 18 schools it served last year.
The Surrey school district says the program operates 165 days a year, meaning in Surrey alone, 134,970 free breakfasts are expected to be served to children in this city this year.
Danelle Kvalheim, co-ordinator for Breakfast Club of Canada, told the Now-Leader she used to teach tennis to children and saw first-hand the difference a breakfast has on concentration and activity levels.
“When you see the numbers out there of how many kids don’t have access to breakfast in the morning or don’t have the opportunity to go to school with a full stomach, it’s something that pulled on my heart,” said Kvalheim, who first got involved in the organization during her studies at UBC in nutritional science.
“We want kids to have a chance to focus on their studies, on connection with peers, and not on their hunger.”
Across Canada, the organization estimates that one in four children don’t eat a proper breakfast.
In B.C., one in five children are living in poverty according to the most recent Child Poverty Report Card released in 2018. That’s 172,550 children in B.C.
The report found that 19.6 per cent of children (86,480) in Metro Vancouver live in poverty. It also highlighted “notable clusters” of particularly high child poverty (more than 40 per cent) in Surrey’s Guildford and Whalley neighbourhoods.
“The overall child poverty statistics hide the fact that some children in B.C. are more at risk of living in poverty than others,” the report reveals, noting that recent immigrant children in B.C. have a poverty rate of 44.9 per cent, followed by off-reserve Aboriginal children at a rate of 30.9 per cent and “visible minority” children at a rate of 23 per cent.
It also found that half of B.C.’s children in lone-parent families were poor, over four times the 12.5 per cent rate for their counterparts in couple families.
Kvalheim explained that all students at the schools the Breakfast Club of Canada serves have access to the program.
“We believe all students need to be able to have access to it – it’s not certain students, it’s every student,” she said. “There’s various reasons why students will come for breakfast. It’s a chance for them to connect with their peers, their teachers, the principal, it’s a place where if parents have to go to work early, and there’s not a place for them to go and no one to help them make breakfast, it’s a safe warm place parents can bring their kids to in the morning.
“Sometimes people say, well, then some kids may just be taking advantage but really if those kids are allowing the kids that really need it to feel comfortable, I think we’re winning,” she added.
Kvalheim urged residents to consider donating to the program this year.
Donations can be made to Breakfast Club of Canada at Costco (from Sept. 9-15) or Walmart (from Sept. 12 to Oct. 4). The organization says “every dollar goes towards a healthy and hearty breakfast for kids to start their day.”
Donations can also be made at breakfastclubcanada.org.