Making breakfast easier

Please support the Grocery Foundation’s #Toonies4Tummies campaign

Eggs over easy are trending around here at the moment. They’re Isaac’s current go-to breakfast. In a delightful development, he has begun taking on more and more responsibility when it comes making his own breakfast and school lunch. Many mornings, I’ll straggle downstairs a bit behind him to find the kettle boiled and tea steeping (and then I have to remember to ask whether he used the caffeinated or decaf tea; I’ve learned that lesson the hard, fumbling, sleepy way), and butter melting in a frying pan. He’s forgiving of both my own and his ineptness when it comes to flipping the eggs —for the life of me, I can’t figure out how to turn over fried eggs, well, easily. More often than not, a yolk or two breaks, and then Isaac says, “Well, I guess we made scrambled eggs instead.”

A few mornings a semester, I get to help make scrambled eggs for not only my kids but for all of his schoolmates. On these mornings, I set an alarm, throw (OMG-you-better-believe-it’s-caffeinated) tea into a travel mug, and walk the five minutes to the kids’ school for 7:30 AM, where I join a half-dozen or so other parents and whichever kids they’ve managed to drag along with them. We’re the weekly (hot) Breakfast Club, supplementing the school’s daily breakfast offerings with eggs, smoothies, parfaits, fruit salads, mini-muffins, and other goodies.

There’s something satisfying about cracking and scrambling eight dozen eggs, or spooning yogurt and strawberries into tiny cups. Part of it’s the people: Breakfast Club attracts a lovely crowd of parents, and we talk as we peel bananas or defrost morning-glory muffins. The kids — buzzed about being allowed in the teachers’ lounge, about the magic of being in school before hours — are generally more helpful than not, running the blender, pushing the food trolley and adding blueberries to parfaits.

And, when everything’s ready and the kids go off their buses, whoever’s hungry heads to the gym to sit down and eat. No qualifiers, no stigma, no discussion: just grab a plate or a granola bar for later, and chow down.

I love watching my own kids eat breakfast, and I love watching their various schoolmates eat breakfast, too. It’s more than just the Jewish mother in me: virtually all research confirms the positive impact of student nutrition programs on everything from behaviour and attention to initiative and academic results, Not to mention high-school graduation rates.

Which is why I volunteer. And which is also why I am once again acting as an ambassador for The Grocery Foundation’s annual Toonies for Tummies campaign. Right now, through February 23, you can donate $2 (the cost of providing one meal to one student) at grocery stores across Canada — hint: in Thunder Bay, it’s Metro — to the campaign. Or, do what I do and donate online at the Grocery Foundation. This campaign helps make my kids’ school’s breakfast program possible, and 100% of donations stay local.

But my kids are in elementary school. What about student nutrition programs in high schools? Will high school students — so sensitive to peer pressure — grab a much-needed breakfast or lunch?

“That was one of the really big topics when I got involved with student nutrition and Toonies for Tummies,” says Kaelyn McCallum, a Grade 11 student at St. Ignatius high school in Thunder Bay. This is her second year as a Grocery Foundation Youth Ambassador, and the campaign is focusing on student engagement. “Would people feel judged? Could we break down any stigma?”

Fortunately, the answer seems to be yes: “I’ve noticed more and more students picking up breakfast or lunch or a snack,” says Kaelyn, 16. “Tons of people go. And kids know that it’s not just about whether your parents have enough money to buy you lunch. It’s because you forgot to eat breakfast, or you didn’t have time, or you forgot your lunch at home or didn’t pack one, or just because you’re hungry and you need a snack. It’s been really cool to see that.”

Kaelyn is organizing two fund-raisers at her school in support of the 2017 Toonies for Tummies campaign: a three-day basketball tournament, and a dress-down day, where students can donate a dollar for the privilege of not wearing their uniforms. She’s hoping to raise at least $2000, which would provide 1000 meals to elementary and high school students in Northwestern Ontario. (A thousand meals! Kvelling.) In Ontario, the Grocery Foundation is partnering with the Ontario Student Nutrition Program Network to help optimize donations at school nutrition programs throughout the province.

If you've got a Toonie or two (or more) to spare, it's a no-brainer to donate to student nutrition. You don't even have to be fully caffeinated to get that.

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Disclaimer: I am a #Toonies4Tummies Ambassador, and I am being compensated for my involvement. All opinions, as well as my decision to support this campaign, are completely my own.