Breakfast for Learning programs help kids get ahead in school

Recipe Swap: No-Bake Breakfast Bars

PHOTO: thinkstock

Summer is so short. No sooner has it arrived, and it’s already leaving. And nothing signals its end more than the arrival of the big orange bus at the end of the lane.

The last few days have been a flurry of back-to-school prep, buying school supplies, making lists, getting haircuts and trying on new clothes.

Have you grocery shopped with breakfast in mind too? Unfortunately, that must-have sometimes gets overlooked between all the Duo-Tang and backpack buying.

Nearly one in three (31 per cent) elementary schoolchildren and 62 per cent of high school students don’t eat breakfast, according to Canada’s largest first and largest charity focused on child nutrition, Breakfast for Learning (BFL).

The reasons are many. If parents don’t eat in the morning, the kids in the family generally won’t either. Missed breakfasts can also be due to food insecurity and there just not being enough food in the house to eat in the morning. Other households are just preoccupied with getting everyone out the door, especially if parents work shifts. Some kids also arrive at school hungry after a long bus ride even though they did eat breakfast.

BFL began two decades ago, after educators red flagged the difficulties they saw among students arriving at school hungry.

The BFL, a charitable organization, today funds programs in every province and territory in Canada. Last year it funded over 2,402 breakfast, lunch and snack programs in 2,113 schools and/or community sites, feeding 251,531 children and youth more than 40 million nourishing meals and snacks.

BFL began in the notable absence of any national government policy or legislation to support, regulate or set standards for the feeding of children at school — a dubious distinction for our country among other developed countries. School food programs of all kinds remain supported by charity today.

In Manitoba, nearly 200 schools also run food programs supported by the Child Nutrition Council, another charitable group operating since 2001. Its programs are now annually feeding about 17,000 students healthy snacks, breakfasts, and balanced light lunch meals and educators say it has made a marked difference in the attentiveness, attitude, mood and behaviour among students.

It seems like a no-brainer, but researchers have studied this, and find a strong link between good nutrition and academic success. Kids taking part in these programs can focus on their studies and, as a result, test scores improve.

The BFL program estimates it costs on average about $10 a day to feed a child a healthy breakfast and snack every day for a week through their program, a number that varies depending on where these schools are located. That’s a pretty small investment to help young people make the most of their day at school.

In anticipation of another school year, and to raise awareness about their program, Breakfast for Learning this fall has launched its Before the Bell, breakfast-by-the-batch recipe booklet with five kid-tested, dietitian-approved recipes. It was created to help families serve healthier, nourishing breakfasts and give their kids a good start to the day.

You can also become a donor to this program, either individually or as a workplace, and there are opportunities to volunteer with programs too.

Here’s one of the recipes included in the Before the Bell recipe booklet. If you like this recipe you can download the entire booklet on the Before the Bell website.

No-Bake Breakfast Bars

Blend the energy boost of high-fibre oats and bran with almonds and the sweetness of honey to fuel up for the day. They are easy to prepare the night before, ready to cut and serve in the morning. Or simply refrigerate and store to grab and go all week long.

  • 1-1/2 c. large-flake oats
    1/2 c. chopped almonds (optional)
    1 c. bran flakes
    1/4 c. liquid honey
    1/4 c. peanut or almond butter or non-nut alternative
    1 c. raisins

Toast oats, almonds and bran flakes in a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat until light and golden (approximately five to 10 minutes). Blend and heat honey and nut butter in a saucepan over a medium-low heat until melted. Add raisins and stir. Pour into oat mixture and mix well. Press mixture into a well-greased 9-inch baking pan. Let one of the kids flatten it — a great wayto get their hands in. Once it’s pressed into bars, refrigerate for at least an hour or until it’s firm. Cut into bars — the more equal the sizes, the happier everyone is! Store in the fridge for up to a week.


Need a nut butter alternative? Try substituting peanut butter with a tasty nut-free pea butter.

Serve with a low-fat glass of milk and fresh fruit for a balanced breakfast.

If you have a recipe or a column suggestion please write to:

Manitoba Co-operator
Recipe Swap
Box 1794
Carman, Manitoba
R0G 0J0

or email Lorraine Stevenson at: [email protected]

About the author


Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.



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