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MLAs reprimand education minister over lack of breakfast, lunch programs

The Department of Education's failure to put territory-wide school breakfast and lunch programs in place has raised the ire of MLAs John Main, Cathy Towtongie and Adam Lightstone.

Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main: Existing breakfast programs are a "patchwork."
photo courtesy of the Government of Nunavut

"When we talk about hunger and hungry children, there are many children who are in that situation," Main, MLA for Arviat North-Whale Cove, said Tuesday. "I haven’t quite grasped why this hasn’t been prioritized to date. I am disappointed in this lack of effort and also quite unhappy with that."

Education Minister David Joanasie replied that district education authorities can access breakfast program funding through the Department of Health. Hamlets and Brighter Future programs also offer breakfast programs, he noted. School staff and community volunteers sometimes raise additional funds and donate their time to ensure students are getting meals, the minister added.

"If we want to mandate teachers to have a food program, a mandatory thing, I think that’s something that I’ll have to take back with me and we’ll have to see if that can be considered for future budgets but at this time we are not doing it for this one," said Joanasie.

Lightstone, Iqluit-Manirajak MLA, who pointed out that this issue had been raised during last year's budget proceedings, said he believes it should be the Department of Education that assumes that responsibility by giving the school faculty all the resources that they
require to ensure these children are being fed.

Main added that he doesn't feel it should be up to teachers, already "inundated with a heavy workload," to do any cooking.

Joanasie said, "We, too, can look at volunteers but it is due to the lack of cooks that poses the biggest challenge."

Hudson Bay MLA Allan Rumbolt suggested that breakfast program funds should flow from the Department of Education instead of the Department of Health.