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School breakfast volunteers bake with joy, care, and purpose

Often, when people first learn about the Ottawa School Breakfast Program and its scope (providing breakfast to 13,500 Ottawa students in 187 schools each school day) they are intrigued to know how it happens. For most of us, making a healthy breakfast for our own family is challenging enough. Imagine being a teacher, volunteer, or breakfast program coordinator responsible for nourishing 25 to 100 students each and every school day.

For sure, it is a massive undertaking. In fact, the Ottawa Network for Education (ONFE) wouldn’t be able to deliver this program without the engagement, commitment, and partnership of educators, volunteers, community organizations, and businesses, each devoted to ensuring that every child in our community has access to a nutritious breakfast and can start the day ready to learn.

Mary Jonsson is one such partner: a local volunteer with a passion for food, clean-eating, and creating made-from-scratch muffins and breakfast bars for the students of D. Roy Kennedy Public School.

According to Jane Murr, a Community Development Coordinator with the Ottawa School Breakfast Program, “What’s special about Mary is how much joy and care she puts into her baking. She truly loves to provide the kids with fresh baked goods that are infused with whole fruit and a dash of love. And everything she makes is delicious.”

Another thing that’s special about Mary is that until her recent retirement, she was baking at D. Roy Kennedy one evening per week, after a full-day of working in retail management. “I was inspired to volunteer after reading about Jamie Oliver, a celebrity chef from Britain, who is on a mission to revolutionize the type of food being served in schools in the United Kingdom. I related to his concern about children, and his desire to make sure they’re fueled properly to learn. It made me think about what I could do, here at home,” said Jonsson.

Soon after, she was at the Grand Opening of Whole Foods in Ottawa, and saw a poster about the Ottawa School Breakfast Program. It was serendipity – truly meant to be. This month, Mary will begin her third year of volunteering. “I’m looking forward to sharing the new recipes that I’ve developed over the summer. All were tested and deemed tasty by my husband, so I hope the students will agree.” We’re pretty sure they will.

If you would like to learn more about this program or make a donation, please contact Carolyn Hunter, Director, Ottawa School Breakfast Program by phone at (613) 366-3085 ×254 or by email at

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