Iqaluit District Education Authority looks at school lunch programs

Full-time lunch programs in Iqaluit’s four schools would cost upwards of $1M annually, says report

Iqaluit District Education Authority board members (from left to right) Alden Williams, Doug Workman, Catherine Hoyt and Tara Braund hear from the public at the IDEA’s annual community consultation meeting at Inuksuk High School Jan. 13. Board members Lori Idlout and Okalik Eegeesiak were also in attendance. (Photo by Emma Tranter)

By Emma Tranter

Schools in Nunavut’s capital could get new daily lunch programs if the Iqaluit District Education Authority has its way.

The IDEA presented a feasibility study for the proposal at its annual community consultation on Monday, Jan. 13.

A handful of community members attended the meeting, along with Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone and Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq.

A daily school lunch program at all of Iqaluit’s schools is something parents and educators have wanted for a long time, said Doug Workman, the IDEA’s chair. The proposal for the lunch program was brought up at last year’s IDEA community consultation.

“We’re looking for ideas on how to get there,” Workman said.

In Iqaluit, students are bused home during lunch hour. Currently, only Inuksuk High School has a lunch program, which runs three days a week.

Inuit Child First, Indigenous Services Canada

Along with the high school, Aqsarniit Middle School, Joamie Elementary School and Nakasuk Elementary School fall under the IDEA’s jurisdiction. All four schools currently have breakfast programs.

Doug Workman, chair of the IDEA, worked with local chef Michael Lockley to conduct the feasibility study for the project. A report summarizing the findings of that study was presented at the community consultation.

The IDEA estimates that it would cost between $1.17 million and $1.22 million annually to provide a full-time school lunch program at all four of Iqaluit’s schools.

If all students in those schools participated, it would mean feeding 1,200 people each day, Workman said.

Julie Miller, who has four children in Iqaluit’s schools, told the board that at a minimum, supervision over lunch hour would be a step forward.

“From a parent’s perspective, it would be an easier transition on kids to go to school in the morning on the bus… be at school during lunch in a familiar space… then come home after school,” she said.

“I also think from an environmental perspective, in the community it would tremendously reduce traffic, the number of cars going home at lunch and what not,” she added.

The report proposes four options for how the program would run.

Option A involves hiring an outside food service like Aramark to run the program. That would require kitchen space, equipment, staff housing and salaries, among other things.

Option B involves using the existing kitchen at Inuksuk high school to make lunches for all the schools. The other three schools do not currently have enough kitchen spaces to accommodate daily meal preparation, Workman said.

Meals could be prepared and transported to the other schools, or to another building where students could eat together. For example, Joamie and Aqsarniit students could be bused to the Arctic Winter Games arena, while Nakasuk students could be served in the school’s gymnasium or bused to other locations, such as the cadet hall.

The cost of providing food alone—excluding labour and equipment costs—to all four schools would range from $1,862 to $2,800 a day, the report states.

Option B also proposes a basic menu, which Workman said would allow for hiring local, inexperienced staff to be trained in food preparation rather than bringing up southern staff to run the program.

Examples of menu items include char chowder with a cheese sandwich, green salad and dessert or chicken cacciatore with rice, salad and dessert.

Option C is the same as Option B but would have a lunch service at Inuksuk High School only, with schools running on a staggered lunch schedule.

Finally, Option D proposes temporary kitchens to be set up in rented trailers.

Most people at the consultation preferred Option B, including Jason Rochon, a former Iqaluit city councillor.

“Could high school students possibly get credits for college if they were part of the solution of making lunches for children?” Rochon suggested.

“I think in Canada, we should never have anyone go hungry.”

For a full-time school lunch program in all four schools, the IDEA’s report presented the following estimated costs:

  • Annual food costs: $300,000
  • Annual wages: $670,000
  • Equipment: $150,000 to $200,000
  • Annual Maintenance: $50,000

The IDEA would need to hire staff to run the program, including chefs, cooks, cleaners, drivers, servers, lunchtime chaperones and more.

The program would also require significant funding to cover food, equipment, salaries and insurance. Workman said the IDEA would need to fundraise to cover these costs.

The IDEA will discuss the lunch program further at its next board meeting. As well, a survey asking for feedback from families will be sent home in the near future.

A study from the Canadian Medical Association Journal that looked at reports of food insecurity in Nunavut’s 10 largest communities in 2014 found 46.6 per cent of households were food insecure.

Community consulted on catchment, busing contract renewal

The IDEA board also presented its 2020 community consultation report and asked for feedback on several consultation questions.

In its report, the IDEA board said it has been lobbying for an increase in student support assistants and for more resources to support students with special needs.

The board has been working to submit a proposal to the Government of Canada under Jordan’s Principle through the Inuit-specific Child First Initiative. The initiative would help develop a long-term approach to better address the unique health, social and education needs of Inuit children.

Through solicited support from parents and guardians and working with social workers, the IDEA identified 35 students for the proposal.

The IDEA is currently waiting for a quote from a group of professionals who could provide the services outlined in the project and hope to submit the proposal to Health Canada in February.

The report also noted that Iqaluit’s schools faced significant staffing shortages in the 2019-20 school year.

The school year began with 10 teacher shortages. Currently, Inuksuk High School has one vacancy for a math-science teacher and Nakasuk Elementary School has vacancies for an Inuktitut teacher and two language specialists.

That means the Inuktitut language program is lacking in the elementary grades, Workman said.

Workman said the board continues to lobby Nunavut’s education minister for staff housing for language specialists.

The board also asked for community feedback on school closure policies due to inclement weather, catchment for students moving to Joamie Court, a restorative justice policy for schools, and the schools’ busing contract, which expires in June 2020.

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(30) Comments:

  1. Posted by harold (iqaluit) on

    i agree with the bord that the children are our most preshious jewels and should be fed accordinglee . i have always stressed the inportence of a balenced brackfest and lunch and supper and the midnight snacking hour when i sneek down to the kitchen to feest on my wifes tempting sweets .

    never the les i disagree with the suggeschuns that thousends of these balonee sanwiches could be prepared by an army of workmen . this is not an easy task as i will reemind you it takes me over fiftine minutes every morning to prepare myself a brackfest balonee sanwich . the math simplee does not add up and i am worried that they will not be able to make endsmeat !

    i apologise for my angry tirade i was recentlee informed that the queen mother and her royale family are packing up and moving to canada wich is causing me a treemendus amount of greef . i was once a royalist but denounced my alleegence after an unpleasant inceedent when the queen last visited our town but i will not speek of it any more .

    • Posted by Spellcheck on

      You should turn on your spellcheck, or return to high school.

      • Posted by Stickler on

        Although I’m a stickler for proper spelling/grammar/punctuation, there is no need to be mean. You understand Harold’s point, and they are points well taken.

      • Posted by No Moniker on

        Please note that “Harold” is a shtick, satire, a caricature of an average Joe, or something like that. Either way his posts are meant to add levity to the comments section. So, take it easy, these spelling and grammatical errors are probably planned out and intentional.

  2. Posted by ConcernedParent on

    I’m not sure how the IDEA is defining “lunch program”. As far as I know, both Nakasuk and Joamie Schools (cannot speak for the other schools) run both a daily breakfast and lunch program, providing food to any child who needs it.

    I’m not sure why the focus and money spent would be on bussing entire schools of children to various locations around town or feeding them all lunch- why not hire lunch monitors for each school so children can eat lunch there, and extra funding to the existing programs to ensure that any child who does not bring a lunch will be provided with one?

    • Posted by yes on

      This is also what I was thinking. Why are they trying to make this so complicated? Kids eat in their classrooms-15 minutes. 15 minutes to play outside. time saved they come home earlier and less overly stimulated and exhausted from the long days and huge transitions. Lunches are brought to school and those who don’t bring one are provided with basic options.

      • Posted by Hungry on

        Thank you!! At my school we ate in the gym. Students who were well behaved got to leave class a few minutes early to set up folding tables. We had a lunch monitor. We didn’t have a cafeteria. For low income students, or anyone who wanted to opt in, box lunches made off-road site were provided. It was really simple, and all the schools around us did it that way. I’m not sure why it has to be so complicated.

        • Posted by Lunch on

          ” I’m not sure why it has to be so complicated.”

          It has to be complicated and expensive because this is Iqaluit. Everyone needs to get a piece of the money.

    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      Incorrect, at least for Joamie (can’t speak for Nakashuk). There is no formal lunch program running at Joamie. The only way a child gets to stay at at the school over lunch is if he/she is enrolled in the afterschool program, JASP. In which case they are required to provide their own lunch.

      • Posted by Solution on

        Even without a lunch program they can still make it way less complicated and expensive than they were suggesting. They can shorten the lunch hour to 30 min. Shorten the days at the end so the time is made up for. Anyone who doesn’t bring a lunch can be provided with healthy and basic alternatives like fruit and sandwiches. Less money. Less struggle for kids.

      • Posted by Solution on

        Even without an already existing lunch program they can still adjust the solution to it way less complicated and expensive than they were suggesting. They can shorten the lunch hour to 30 min. Shorten the days at the end so the time is made up for. Anyone who doesn’t bring a lunch can be provided with healthy and basic alternatives like fruit and sandwiches. Less money. Less struggle for kids.

        • Posted by Good idea…but on

          Excellent idea, however in the contract between the NTA and the GN educators are guaranteed an hour of uninterrupted lunch. If lunch is shortened to 30min who will be with the students for the other 30mins?

          • Posted by Ideas on

            Would it be possible to change the contract? Make the time up at the end of the day by letting the kids out earlier.

      • Posted by ConcernedParent on

        Thanks for the clarification- my children go to Nakasuk so I can attest that they definitely have a lunch program at the school. I believe it is run by teachers who volunteer their time.

        I believe there is a much easier solution to lunchtime congestion than what is currently being proposed.

  3. Posted by parent on

    The options listed all indicate that the program will be free.
    Option E – There could be a cost associated with this program. Income support, and low income family’s/single parents would be offered free. But for the rest that can afford $5.00 for lunch or some other amount would help off set the huge cost, or kids can have the option to bring their lunch.
    And what are the cost savings if the lunch Bus is stopped?

    • Posted by anon on

      I was wondering about bus costs – savings would be in fuel costs, bus maintenance, and possibly driver wages depending on how they are paid. I was hoping to see that in the article but it may not have been brought up.

      If the savings on the bus routes could pay for even half of the lunch program, it’s completely worth doing.

  4. Posted by Where’s the $? on

    I hope the IDEA will not be looking to the GN for this funding. Even if there are savings for Education from a reduced bussing contract, which would be surprising, Iqaluit has the most affluent families. The departments budget should be doled out equally amoung communities. And if not equal, than especially for those communities with the highest rates of food insecurity. A good number of Iqaluit families could afford at least a nominal fee to feed their children, or even just having the option of sending them with their own lunches. I would feel guilty having my children offered free lunches when the needs are so great for so many others.

    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      We used to think the same thing about the breakfast program and at one point actually instructed our kids not to partake because we wanted to make sure that the kids who really needed access to that food got it. Then we realized that there may be a stigma attached to these programs if only the needy kids used them, whereas if everyone was eating no stigma. Probably the same with any needs-based lunch program. There just aren’t enough kids in the Iqaluit school system to fully subsidize a million dollar lunch program.

  5. Posted by Iqalummiut on

    What the schools can do is order single type burners, and large crock pots or industrial size pots for each classroom. In my elementary school growing up, there was no lunch program in place, there was no spot for it. Us kids stayed in the school and each class had a huge pot with a single burner and were served soup. If we were lucky, then we also had a bun or bannock with it made with the only one oven in the school. It was the same soup everyday but those who were hungry didn’t care. It was food in their bellies. There’s so many different ways to do this. I’ve seen on social media too much that some parents are heartbroken that they send their kids to school hungry. It’s heart breaking to see. The immense poverty is real, just because you don’t see it in front of you doesn’t mean it isn’t there

  6. Posted by Iqalummiut on

    Also, I forgot to add, if the schools in the south can do it, why not up here, where it’s needed the most? They have programs where the kids either bring their own lunch, or they buy the lunch. Also, can also pitch to the parents to pay a per semester fee to help out with the cost of running such a program

  7. Posted by Northern Guy on

    70% of the cost of the lunch program would go to O&M? That seems pretty rich to me. There must be ways to reduce that amount of overhead because $700K is massive.

  8. Posted by Old School – Keep it Simple!! on

    Option B does sound like the most viable but the part about potentially busing students to a designated location for lunch seems rather foolish and a waste of time & money. There are other options here, including staggered lunch times or having students eat at their desks. Lunches do not need to be something elaborate, soup and sandwiches would be more than adequate. The money saved on busing the students could offset the cost of the meals.

  9. Posted by Colin on

    Implementation of this idea is long overdue. It would do no more bring Nunavut in line with similar programs that have existed forever in France and Japan. This is one way to get kids to want to go to school.

    Of course, it’s necessary to provide lunch every day, and also for the food to be both nutritious and seriously good to eat. A program initiated In England by Jamie Oliver showed that it’s just as easy and just as economic to prepare food that kids really want to eat as to produce stuff they don’t.

    In the US some schools serving marginalized communities also provide breakfast.

    Preparation of meals could also provide the forum for students to learn how to prepare really tasty meals.

    It may need to be said that this is a job worth doing and needs to be done well.

  10. Posted by Lorraine Cyr on

    I think this is a good idea. Feeding kids at school. Why don’t you also look into growing a community garden at school where the kids participate in the care and planting of it. Do you know how much potatoes you can grow and feed all the kids. You can make all kinds of delicious dishes with potatoes. Plus, the benefits of other vegetables to.

  11. Posted by Here’s an idea on

    Each RIA region receives royalties right? Why don’t we pitch to them to step up. Where do our royalties go? Sit around? Collect interest and dust? What are the plans for the royalties of the Inuit organizations?

    Each school can pitch for sponsorship to initiate more than the snack program

    What do they use for their breakfast programs?

    I wish I had known about this meeting that took place, I would have gone

  12. Posted by I Dea on

    There are existing lunch programs for breakast or lunch. Such program might be workable in cases in remote places.

  13. Posted by Putuguk on

    The Government of Nunavut Income Assistance program is designed to provide Nunavut residents the means to meet their basic needs, including food. Last year’s expenditure for IA for the entire territory was $55M; all regions, all communities. Anyone you care to ask would agree that is not enough for people to live on.

    The IDEA is considering using around 2% of that total amount to feed a certain age class of Nunavut resident 1 meal a day, only during the school year. Through no fault of their own, and by virtue of the limited scope the IDEA has in looking at food insecurity, the IDEA avoids the nutritional needs of the rest of the family, the student during breakfast and supper, and while on spring and summer breaks. It also adds significant overhead costs ($870k wages and O&M).

    $1.17M for Iqaluit student lunches if otherwise used could increase IA for the approximately 14,000 Nunavut recipients by around $83 per year, or around $7 a month territory wide. Or in Iqaluit only, $1.17M for school lunches translates to $644 more per year per IA recipient, or around $55 more per month which would go a good ways towards someone buying and preparing their own lunches.

    I am guessing that if you added up all the money that is spent by Nunavut schools and other government funded groups to feed people you would get a significant fraction of the $55M a year IA spending figure.

    Every time another government department (in this case Education) lifts a finger to address food insecurity it detracts from what they are really meant to do as opposed to what Family Services is meant to do. Plus you are duplicating over and over again equipment and salary costs for doing something for others what they could be doing for themselves at no cost, while building up their own independence and esteem.

    Here is a radical idea. Start by reforming the IA program. Take all that money you are spending in dozens of ways to address food insecurity and actually put it into IA. Resource the IA program so it can actually achieve what it is meant to achieve.

    • Posted by Putuguk for Premier on

      There is a GN election coming soon. Putuguk, please be a candidate in the next GN election. I don’t agree with everything you write, but you are needed and I will vote for you if you run in my riding.


  14. Posted by Chesley Mesher on

    Any way you look at it it’s $ well spent – it ought howevers be clear from the start that any overhead & unforseen costs be reined in. The nutrition north program for example has seen its share of problems which never appear to be properly reined. Good luck with it Nunavut, we in Nunavik have similar nutrition programs that work well/achieve great things in our schools.

  15. Posted by Ukiuqtaqtumiu on

    finally someone is listening to the people.i agree we need new food corts in schools plus people eat traditional food for better healthy life style.we as parents need to get together and create a better solution if we don’t want f/g and g/n not be part o the situation.what we need to create is more healther life style first with family=no more bullying. no more taking sides but taking the side of better education system and engagement towards to community city we live in,don’t forget the accessible issues we have with disability. now that’s another story in it self.go parents go.

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