The 250 participants of the Global Child Nutrition Forum engaged in field trips to see the Breakfast Club of Canada’s experience in providing breakfast for vulnerable kids. In Canada, 1 child in 5 is at risk of starting the school day on an empty stomach. In some groups, this rate can be as high as 1 child in 2. Food insecurity and poor lifestyle choices have significant repercussions on the health and education of youth, and in Canada 1 million children are at risk of going to school with nothing to eat.
The Breakfast Club of Canada works with a network of donors and volunteers to provide access to healthy food for children and teenagers, and training youths and volunteers, which in turn fosters a broader sense of engagement at the community level. Operating from coast to coast, the Breakfast Club of Canada helps feed 203,852 students every day in 1,598 schools. In the province of Quebec, where Montreal is, the Club serves breakfast to over 20,000 children.
Among First Nations, Metis, and Inuit, food insecurity rates are higher. Backed by a team of expert providers of support to Aboriginal communities, the Club offers solutions and tools to help their youths grow, thrive and realize their full potential. Some of the schools visited by the Forum’s participants were attended by members of these communities. This is the case of the elementary school in Oka village. This small village is a symbol of the fight of Canada’s First Nations for their rights.
The school visited serves 58 students, ages 5 to 11. They are all members of the Mohawk people. Forum participants were greeted by the community’s Grand Chief, the school director, teachers and the group of very happy kids. Breakfast was delicious, and the kids enjoyed every bite of it – as well as the visitors. Grand Chief Serge Simon from the Mohawks of Kanesatake said, “the breakfast programme was a very important element for our children here, because some children, due to poverty, the only decent meal that they have is the one we provide them, and we can only do it with the help of the Breakfast Club”.
After the visit to the schools, participants highlighted the importance of transforming the visions shared in the Forum into actions. It is a consensus that school feeding programmes are crucial for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The final message of the Forum was a call for governments to step up and take school feeding into their hands, providing all resources necessary to the implementation of durable programmes.
Daniel Balaban, director of the WFP Centre of Excellence, said, “we all understand why school meals programmes are important to development, now we need to go back home and make sure we include school meals programmes into our countries’ budgets”. Daniel Germain, founder of the Breakfast Club of Canada announced they will pledge with the government of Canada for the creation of a national school meals programme.
The Forum’s Communiqué stressed that strong political will is of the utmost importance to make school feeding a reality in all countries. The involvement of different sectors and various governmental bodies and the cooperation among stakeholders and countries were also pointed out as relevant strategies. At the visit to the Mohawk school, Grand Chief Serge Simon said, “as a chief, and all the chiefs in my Council, we know that we have to fight hard to eradicate poverty in our community, so I hope that someday, I doubt that this will happen in my lifetime, but maybe in grandson’s lifetime, poverty will be something that he will read about in history books”.
Gene White, founder of the Global Child Nutrition Foundation, closed the Forum: “our work is not done, our work is just beginning”.