BCoC - © BCoC

1 In 3 Canadian Kids Don’t Get Breakfast At Home?

So says the Breakfast Club Of Canada, a program partnering with 3,361 elementary schools in Canada to provide about 500,000 nutritious breakfasts a year to kids who don’t get fed at home. Who would have thought that we’d need such a program in a top-tier country like Canada?

BCoC Kids eating - © Breakfast Club of Canada

I don’t know about you, but I associate school food programs with low-income inner city environments in which food security is a major issue effecting the entire family – heck, the entire community. But the Breakfast Club of Canada (BCoC) insists that many kids from adequate-income families don’t get an adequate breakfast at home and need to be fed one at school to make the most of their learning day.

“Before the pandemic, Breakfast Club of Canada estimated that one in four children was at risk of going to school hungry; this number is now one in three,” says Judith Barry, co-founder and director of government relations for the organization. “Nearly two million children in Canada are now at risk of going to school hungry due to a variety of reasons, and we’ve witnessed that situation with our stakeholders across the country. We’re seeing more students attending our programs as food costs are increasing, so school food programming is highly impacted by the pandemic.”

For the record, I don’t dispute BCoC’s claims that, “The health and education benefits of students receiving a nutritious meal at school are not only impacting the children themselves, but the school community as a whole, from the classroom to the playground to the principal’s office.” It’s a laudable, even noble goal. I just think it’s the parents that should be taking responsibility for their kids morning meal.

Why can’t they get breakfast at home?

BCoC says even kids from financially secure families are using its programs, for a variety of reasons:

  • Long bus ride to school
  • Rushed morning routine
  • Lack of healthy food choices at home’
  • Lack of appetite
  • Extracurricular activities before school hours
  • Family emergencies

My first reaction is, “Why can’t parents ensure that healthy food choices are available at home? Why can’t they organize themselves properly to avoid a rushed morning routine? Why would you not just get the kids up earlier on days they have activities scheduled before school hours?”

My next reflection is, “How come kids aren’t ravenous when they get up in the morning.” I know I was. And I know that my classmates were, too. Eating too much junk food the night before, maybe? And who’s responsibility is it to ensure their kids don’t eat too much junk?

Long bus ride to school? Maybe. But I’ve long felt that far more busing is done in the school systems these days than is necessary. And it costs a hell of a lot of taxpayer money. When I was a kid, I and my family were responsible for getting me to school safely, on time for the first bell. Most of us went to schools in our own neighbourhoods – unless we had special needs.

Family emergencies used to be handled simply and easily. If grandpop had a heart attack, I was sent off across the street to Mrs. Indovino’s, or up two doors to the Howe’s – who treated me just like their own kids until the emergency blew over and Mom and Dad got back. But that was ‘ancient times’, when most moms stayed home and everybody knew – and could trust – their neighbours. Now, families need at least two incomes to make ends meet, let alone prosper, and we take it for granted that, as a society, we must spend millions on pre-school, daycare, before school, after school and other child-oriented social welfare programs.

What does it all cost?

BCoC says it costs about $2 a head to serve kids a ‘healthy’ breakfast incorporating at least three of the main food groups. Part and parcel of organizing the programs it runs, BCoC solicits corporate financial support and food donations, recruits and trains volunteers, and coordinates provision of equipment and staffing. When all is said and done, BCoC says it can provide one breakfast for each $0.50 individuals donate.

Sounds like a pretty big, cumbersome organization to me, just to put an egg, a slice of toast and a piece of fruit in front of a kid whose family doesn’t, strictly speaking, need such support.

An abandonment of responsibility

It all boils down to a free ride for parents, tacit approval for them to abandon their responsibility to their kids to provide them with a decent breakfast – amid proper supervision – before they go off to school. It’s too easy to just load the kids on a bus, trusting that they’ll get breakfast at school, at someone else’s effort and expense. It smacks of that ‘entitled’ outlook that so many young parents have grown up with – perhaps as a result of all the supports, all the ‘programs’ and ‘gimmies’ they’ve learned to take for granted.

Out of control

I’ve already told you what I think of busing kids to school. That’s turned into another generally accepted abrogation of parental responsibility that’s costing us a fortune. Now, it appears society is normalizing school breakfast programs, even for kids whose families can easily afford the time and expense of providing a proper breakfast at home.

I’m from a time and generation that still complains about the high and escalating cost of education, and publicly-funded child care, and all the other child-oriented costs society has decided to take off the backs of parents and dump on us all – regardless of whether we have kids in school or not. But don’t get me started on that. It’s just another artifact of the phenomenon I’ve been ranting about this morning: Society accepting collective responsibility for responsibilities parents have been allowed to abandon.

This normalizing of the abandonment by parents of their most basic family responsibilities has gotten completely out of control.

~ Maggie J.