MONTREAL -- Nearly twice as many Canadian children risk showing up to school on an empty stomach during this school year because of layoffs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Breakfast Club.

The organization – which provides meals before classes to 257,000 students in 1,887 elementary and high schools across the country – projects that hunger could impact 2.1 million children, or 45 per cent of them. 

“If there’s a moment we want to be present, it’s this back-to-school season, because there will be many, many families who will find themselves without enough food,” said director general Tommy Kulczyk in an interview with the Canadian Press. 

The Breakfast Club is therefore asking for Canadians to show their generosity, as it hopes to collect $10 million to meet the rising demand. 

The demand for its services is also stronger because 522 organizations and schools were already on the waiting list before COVID-19 even hit, Kulczyk added.

“Children all deserve the same opportunity to succeed,” he said. “The bare minimum is for them to have enough energy to learn. It’s important for children all over Canada to have breakfast, to start their day off on the right foot.” 

The organization estimated over the past few years that it would cost $500 million per year to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable communities in the country. It proposed for the federal government to foot half the bill and for the provinces, territories, municipalities, private sector and population to split the rest. 

Kulczyk said Canada is “the only G7 country” that doesn’t have a national school nutrition program – a universal policy aimed at ensuring that all children have access to a healthy meal every day. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 20, 2020.