Even the 50 km-per-hour winds and dreary weather is not stopping Jason Rochon and his volunteers from running Iqaluit’s Breakfast in a Bag program.
“I was thinking even if we only had 10 kids come and they really needed a breakfast it would be worth getting out of bed for,” said Rochon on May 20.
With colourful pylons arranged in a line for social distancing, Rochon stands behind a gray table with volunteer Tarrah Kelly. They stand in the cold, next to D.J. Specialities, handing out breakfast packages to those in need.
This is one of the two locations, the other being Joamie Ilinniarvik School, where breakfast packages have been distributed since March 26.
Presently, about 250 food bags are being given out per day.
When schools closed on March 17 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the breakfast program at schools also came to a halt.
“I started thinking about the kids that I always serve breakfast to every morning,” said Rochon.
Rochon, a student support assistant at Joamie Ilinniarvik School, has been running the school’s breakfast program for the past seven years. He said he understood the benefit of the breakfast program for the students.
“The kids really appreciate it,” he said.
Within 10 days of the school closures, he was motivated to launch a breakfast program for all students in Iqaluit.
For almost two months now, Rochon’s determination combined with community support has allowed for a successful breakfast program. There are about 30 volunteers who generously help to pack and distribute food bags every week.
“I enjoy knowing that the little bit of effort that we put into it has a huge impact on others,” said volunteer Kelly, adding it “makes standing in the 50 km-per-hour winds worth it.”
Mona Godin, the operations manager at DJ Specialities, has offered help in another way. She is handling the accounting aspects of the program and providing free warehouse space for cargo.
“Out of everything that happens in Iqaluit, feeding kids has to be a priority,” said Godin.
Donations from anonymous individuals to businesses across Canada have provided the means to feed the hungry in Iqaluit.
As of May 20, about $76,000 has been spent on the breakfast program, informed Godin.
The breakfast package usually consists of five items: milk, cereal, fresh fruit, a piece of cheese and yogurt. With more funds, the plan is to hopefully add additional items like juice boxes, granola bars and lunch meats, said Rochon.
From Monday to Friday, between 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., volunteers will continue to hand out breakfast bags until the end of June. The food bags can be picked up outside of D.J. Specialities and Joamie Ilinniarvik School. For students in Apex, a volunteer will continue delivering the food to their homes.
“We all can be providing service for our community,” said Rochon.