Here is a summary of our chat with Amanda Boadi, Senior Impact & Sustainability Advisor with Breakfast Club of Canada.
EFA: Egg Farmers of Alberta
BCC: Amanda Boadi
Note: This conversation has been edited for clarity.
EFA: Today, we are taking a focus on the heartwarming story of a national organization that’s committed to helping children across Canada access nutritious breakfasts and reach their full potential. At Egg Farmers of Alberta, our commitment to social responsibility and contributing to our community lies at the core of who we are and what we do. As we provide nourishing and top-quality food to our fellow Albertans, we also hold a responsibility to uplift the communities that we do call home. Since 2015, EFA has proudly partnered with Breakfast Club of Canada, an alliance that has seen EFA getting more eggs and warm breakfasts to many students across the province at elementary and secondary schools. This partnership has been a cherished part of our journey, with our staff volunteering their time to prepare eggs and food packages for the cause. Now, allow me to introduce you to this episode’s guest, Amanda Bodie. Amanda serves as a senior Impact and Sustainability Advisor with Breakfast Club of Canada. Welcome to the show today, Amanda.
BCC: Thanks for inviting me, Tate.
EFA: Can you share a little background on who you are and how long it is that you’ve worked with Breakfast Club of Canada?
BCC: I’ve worked as an advisor at the Breakfast Club of Canada for a little over five years now. When I first joined the organization, I worked almost exclusively on projects and school programs in Alberta. But now my work spans more across our national programs department. So, it’s been really fun to learn more about the country and how each region is just a little bit different. I also love that over my time at the club, I’ve probably seen more of Alberta than I have living in Calgary for over 20 years.
EFA: You mentioned how each region is different. Is it like big differences between the provinces or there are some similarities?
BCC: I’d say what’s interesting from province to province is that you’ll see different funding models are more popular, and every province has their own guidelines for school programming. But you’d be surprised by how many similarities there are between programs, regardless of the province that they’re in.
EFA: Your job title is quite intriguing. Could you expand a bit on what it is that you do at Breakfast Club of Canada?
BCC: Yeah, I’m a Senior Impact and Sustainability Advisor in the Club’s programs department, so my team’s involved a lot in creating the bridge between our daily operations and our overall strategy so that we’re always continuously improving our program offering. If I had to break down my role, I’d say that the packed end is really focused on maximizing the overall value that we bring to our national network of partners. And then on the sustainability end, there’s a lot of external relationship building that we’re doing to enhance our capacity building in the communities we work with. Internally I get to work a lot with our evaluations process to make sure that we have a realistic understanding of our program partners needs and then get to make recommendations on the interventions we can take to better support our school’s evolving needs. Externally, I get to manage new projects and then optimize the existing partnerships we have with community agencies and then also support a little bit in our government relations team with advocacy efforts towards a national school feeding program.
EFA: You touched on understanding the needs of the network. How have those needs changed in the last few years?
BCC: We’ve seen more popularity in breakfast programs, which I is due to increased demand, but also an increased understanding of the benefits of breakfast programs. We’ve also seen a bit of a shift in our program models. So, where you used to see a lot more programs that were a sit down in a cafeteria, we’ve seen an evolution in how schools reach students with a lot more schools offering things like classroom baskets where every student can participate to also respect food safety and handling restrictions.
EFA: For those who are hearing Breakfast Club of Canada for the first time, how long has the club actually been around for?
BCC: The club has been in operation for just under 30 years now, and Breakfast Club of Canada held its first breakfast program in 1994 in Longueuil, Quebec, and then it quickly expanded its activities across that entire province. In 2006, we went national, and since then, the organization has grown to support breakfast programs in every province and territory.
EFA: That’s amazing! I know you do have different support models, and with those varying levels of how you support schools, could you describe a bit of what the main ones are?
BCC: Sure. Since its foundation, the club has supported breakfast programs directly with schools so that we can ensure all of their students have access to nutritious food in a safe and inclusive environment. This could range from serving hot breakfasts like I mentioned, the cafeteria model, to even having grab-and-go programs that meet students when they’re getting off the bus in the morning. And now looking at things like classroom carts or community fridges that bring food for all students in the morning. Things have changed over the last few years, but it’s great that we’ve been able to keep adjusting based on what each school’s needs are. Now there’s such a variety to our programs because we want to adapt to fit the realities of the schools and the culture of each community. To better adapt to those needs, our support has also expanded from working a lot more directly with schools to working with school districts, community agencies like food banks and community kitchens, and then of course, regional and provincial agencies so that we can reach as many students as possible.
EFA: Here in Alberta, how many schools are part of this program?
BCC: In Alberta, entering the year, we were supporting over 280 programs, and we were able to maintain that support despite rising food costs and inflation. We really do have a large and growing waitlist, though, with over 150 schools waiting for support in Alberta. That’s why we’re really focused on optimizing and expanding those supports available with partners, and also why we’re really appreciative of partnerships like the one with Egg Farmers of Alberta.
EFA: 150 schools. That is quite lengthy. I’m assuming that saw a sharp increase with the pandemic over the last few years?
BCC: We definitely did. Our waitlist is kind of always expanding, and I think one of the benefits was that we got more traction, and more schools were able to hear about us. And as our waitlist expands, of course more schools learn about the benefits of a program, and then more schools want a breakfast program. So, it’s kind of this continuous cycle we’re always playing with.
EFA: You touched on Alberta. Could you share the extent of Breakfast Club Canada’s outreach across the country?
BCC: In Canada, the club contributes to the ecosystem of community partners that range from province to province. And what we do is we help provide financial support and food items, consultation with program coordinators, resources on volunteering menu planning and program service, and platforms for idea exchange, where we’re now able to reach over 3,500 programs nationally.
There are many reasons why children might go to school on an empty stomach, from long bus rides to family emergencies to even rushed morning routines. And the club really wants to ensure that all children have access to a nutritious breakfast, regardless of the reason. So as momentum is building around a national school feeding program, what we are trying to work towards is having programs that are universally accessible in every school community across the country. And that’s why we kind of work with engaging in organizations at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels that could be government ministries and even partners like Egg Farmers of Alberta and Egg Farmers of Canada.
EFA: Outside of the 150 schools that are waiting, if there is one that is interested in joining, how do they go about that?
BCC: If a school is interested in establishing a new breakfast program or even strengthening something that they already have in place, they can reach out to Breakfast Club of Canada directly. The easiest way to do that is to apply for support through our online grant application form, which can be found on our website at www.breakfastclubcanada.org. We do accept applications year-round from schools, school boards, and community organizations that are seeking support for their breakfast programs, offering support throughout the school year. So, because the need for the programs is so high, we do maintain a waitlist in each province and territory to track and follow up with the request that we receive. Schools on the waitlist include those with no current programs, those who already have a program but just need more support to add variety or nutrition, and those who have a partial meal program that might be supported by other sources of funding who just want a more complete meal. We maintain our waitlist so that interested schools don’t have to reapply for reconsideration every year. And we also do have a School Corner on our website that includes a collection of resources and toolkits that are accessible to our waitlist, but also accessible to every school in the country and to the general public.
EFA: Here we are with summer almost ending and students returning to school, how can the general public help Breakfast Club of Canada have a successful school year?
BCC: I’d say that as everyone’s gearing up for the busy back-to-school season, we invite the public to think about the hundreds of thousands of children who are returning to class this fall. Canada is the only G7 country without a national school feeding program, and we have a lot of work to do to ensure children across the country are able to access nutritious breakfast, so they don’t start their day on an empty stomach. Anyone who’s interested in helping the club directly to continue its widespread initiatives can donate to us by visiting breakfastclubcanada.org or even just by texting Club to 20222. We do believe success tomorrow starts with breakfast today, and we’ve seen that breakfast programs support children in creating caring communities, alleviating hunger, and fostering a sense of belonging. In addition to donating, we also encourage the public to learn more about their local programs and spread the word on the importance of these school food programs with their communities, and especially to their MLAs and other elected officials.
EFA: We are very appreciative of our partnership with Breakfast Club of Canada. That wraps our conversation today. Thank you so much for joining the show and sharing more about who Breakfast Club of Canada is, Amanda.
BCC: Thank you so much for having me, Tate.