Breakfast in a Pandemic

Donald Campbell, Jr knows a thing or two about going hungry.

The owner of That’s Right Roofing & Renovations, who recently placed third in the heavily contested District 12 race in the CBRM election, suffered physical hunger pains when he was a boy – and blames poverty, in his characteristically direct fashion, for landing him in jail for starting him on a path of crime:

“When I was poor, I would steal, that’s the fucking truth,” the 41-year-old told the Cape Breton Spectator. “I have a criminal record and before I turned around and became a community-minded person, I would steal if I had to.

“People don’t realize how unhappy you are when you’re hungry.”

Halloween fireworks under the Blue Moon, Sydney Speedway

Photo by Tera Camus

Although his run at municipal politics was unsuccessful, Campbell says he’s “still out [there] helping the homeless and the hungry.” So when he heard a rumor local schools’ breakfast programs were themselves hungry for financial support this year, he decided he had to do something to help the kids.

On Halloween night, under the big Blue Moon and stars, he shot fireworks over the old Speedway track, near his modest home on Grand Lake Road, and ran a 50/50 draw that raised $750 from the onlookers parked around the dark, gravel parking lot and fields.

He and his wife topped it to $1,000 and donated the works to four area schools including two in Glace Bay, one in Reserve Mines and another in New Waterford.

Campbell says the municipality’s business community needs to follow his example and “step up… or we’re going to see this place get further and further in the hole.”

 

Dietician Debbie Madore, who heads the breakfast program, which has been around since 1999, confirmed they are hurting due to COVID, which has curtailed school fundraisers and impacted the supporting organizations, like service clubs, that normally contribute tens of thousands of dollars to the program each year.

https://www.dietitiansns.com/debbie-madore

Debbie Madore, dietitian (photo: Dietitians Nova Scotia)

“COVID is having an impact on our fundraising,” she confirmed.

In pre-COVID times, for instance, kids would sell boxes of vegetables or other goods to their families and friends, raising thousands of dollars. This year, though, they weren’t out selling and the online version just didn’t work well.

The province provided its usual core funding to the breakfast program of just under $2 million, about $200,000 of which is earmarked for schools under the umbrella of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Centre for Education where Madore manages the purchase and distribution of food as well as coordinating fundraising.

Another big strain on the core budget this year is that, since the virus struck, more kids have been taking advantage of the program:

“Right now COVID has changed things in schools and how we deliver the program,” she said, noting that in pre-COVID times, breakfast was always served to students in school cafeterias. Now, students “no longer have to go to the cafeteria. We do classroom drop-offs…so more students are having it. Normally, the breakfast program is open to all students and we never ask why, there’s no stigma, but we’re getting kids who are eating because it’s there.”

She said they expect COVID-related factors, some as yet unknown, will continue to impact budgeting and fundraising decisions for some time to come, especially if schools are forced by an outbreak to move to a blended or home-based system.

“We hope we just stay in schools… kids need to be in school,” said Madore.

In the meantime, she said, people who want to assist the program should email her directly.

 

Born and raised in Whitney Pier, Tera Camus has been a journalist for three decades,  investigating, writing, editing and shooting photos for a variety of national and international outlets including CBC Radio, the Chronicle Herald, Toronto Star, Orlando Times and Canadian Geographic. She has been recognized for her reporting on Cape Breton murderers and misuses of municipal funds and for her investigative work mapping toxic hot spots in and around the former Sydney tar ponds/coke ovens.