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A community breakfast program in Arctic Bay is feeding hundreds of students despite complications from Covid-19. Food insecurity has motivated community members to continue with the breakfast program since March 31.

The program is currently being organized by the District Education Authority (DEA) while volunteering teachers from Inuujaq School are providing manpower.

“We are cognizant of the fact that there is food insecurity in Arctic Bay,” said Everett Igobwa, principal at Inuujaq School, adding “we are going well beyond the call of duty to provide at least one meal for them.”

A hungry student cannot learn, said Igobwa.

Arctic Bay’s breakfast program has used these colourful paper bags to distribute food to students. photo courtesy of Carla Oyukuluk

Before the closure of all schools in Nunavut on March 17, Inuujaq School had a breakfast program in place for students. Breakfast would typically be served around 8:30 a.m.

Students looked forward to having breakfast at school, said Igobwa.

Igobwa explained it was not uncommon for at least 10 to 12 students to visit the office and ask for food even after lunch. “That’s how I can actually justify that there is food insecurity,” he said.

Inuujaq School, the community’s only school, has nearly 300 students, according to the principal.

Within less than two weeks of Inuujaq School closing, teamwork has allowed the breakfast program to continue, explained Igobwa.

The success of the program needs to be credited to the community’s hamlet, DEA and the teachers, according to  him.

The hamlet, which usually funds the breakfast school program, is continuing to provide the funding amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Arctic Bay’s DEA Chair, Carla Oyukuluk, is in charge of the program. She uses social media to promote and update the community about the breakfast program.

Her favourite part of running the program is “seeing all the beautiful smiles on the children when they pick up their breakfast bags,” said Oyukuluk.

Then there are the teachers, who voluntarily prepare and distribute food packages to students. “I’m just very grateful to especially the teachers,” said Igobwa, adding teachers usually volunteer from 9 a.m to 1 p.m. on a given day.

He explained the teachers have to be very creative with the meals since students are no longer sitting down to eat. Some foods like hotdogs, fruits, granola bars, boiled eggs, and grilled cheese sandwiches have been served so far.

From Monday to Friday, there is a table set up with the food bags outside of the community hall. Students, parents or guardians can pick up a bag usually between 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

“We always like being part of the solution and not part of the problem,” said Igobwa, referring to Arctic Bay’s food insecurity issue.

To adhere to social distancing protocols, a table has been set up outside Arctic Bay’s community hall. Students can pick up food bags between Monday to Friday. photo courtesy of Everett Igobwa
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