In order to ensure the health and safety of students, food programs in Nunavut will be modified depending on the Covid-19 situation, says the Department of Education. The changes will take place based on the different stages outlined in the 2020-21 Opening Plan for Nunavut Schools: Health and Safety.

Although food programs are available to all students in Nunavut, the Department of Education estimates about 75 to 85 per cent of students access the programs offered at schools. photo courtesy of Jason Rochon

During the school year, every school in Nunavut has a food program, said Troy Rhoades, communications officer with the Department of Education. This may include breakfast, snack and lunch programs depending on the school’s capacity, needs and resources available, he said.

In Stage 1, the food programs, which are run by school staff and community volunteers, will run as normal with increased personal hygiene measures for participants.

In Stages 2 or 3, the participants in food programs must adhere to physical distancing orders as required by Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO). “Increased measures must be taken to protect food program participants,” said Rhoades.

During Stage 4, the final stage, the food programs may be reduced, adapted or eliminated. The Department of Education along with the CPHO will work with each community and school to determine how food security can be addressed.

In Nunavut, food programs are essential for supporting the food security and providing students with the energy to focus on learning.

A hungry student cannot learn, explained Everett Igobwa, who was Inuujaq School’s principal last June.

“We are cognizant of the fact that there is food insecurity in Arctic Bay,” he had said, and that is why “we are going well beyond the call of duty to provide at least one meal for them.”

When school closed on March 17, 2020 due to Covid-19, Igobwa and his teachers continued their food programs until June. The program was run by the District Education Authority and fed over 200 students.

Although food programs are available to all students in Nunavut, the Department of Education estimates about 75 to 85 per cent of students access the programs offered at schools.

Financial Support amid Covid-19

On April 3, 2020, the Government of Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) collaborated to invest $2 million in community food programs for children and elders in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“School closures have left too many of Nunavut’s children without the breakfast or lunch programming that helped alleviate food security issues in our communities,” Premier Joe Savikataaq had said during the announcement.

Over $2 million in funds were distributed to hamlets to deliver community food programs that met the specific needs of each community, said Rhoades.

He added that food programs are supported by Community Wellness plans. These plans are funded by the federal government through the Department of Health. They are administered by sponsoring agencies such as hamlets or district education authorities (DEAs). Some schools, hamlets or DEAs may also seek other third-party funding or donations to supplement their food programs.

Jason Rochon, a student support assistant at Joamie Ilinniarvik School, ran Iqaluit’s Breakfast in a Bag program when schools closed in March. He obtained $25,000 from NTI for the program. Additionally, he received donations from across Canada to feed the hungry students in Iqaluit.

$91,455 was spent on the program, which ended in June.

“I hope breakfast programs are back better then ever and delivered in the safest way possible,” said Rochon.

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