We are pleased to be celebrating a special victory: thanks to the close collaboration of the Eeyou Nation (Cree) in Quebec and Breakfast Club of Canada, more than 4,500 students in 16 elementary and high schools now have access to a school breakfast program!
During our first visit to these Northern communities in 2013 to provide support and raise awareness, BCC’s Indigenous programs advisor questioned the longer-term feasibility of supporting so many large school populations in these remote areas. Eight years and one regional partnership later, and it looks like we may have figured it out!
Our adventure with the Eeyou Istchee schools (Cree Nation) began in 2011 with the support of the Wemindji community. It wasn’t until 2015 (Waswanipi) and 2019 (Ouje-Bougoumou) that other local Cree schools joined in.
Since then, both the regional organizations we work with and our advisors and coordinators have accomplished a great deal. Their hard work deserves our praise and recognition.
In 2017, we reached out to the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay and, shortly after that, to the Cree School Board to join forces in setting up a universal breakfast program for all Eeyou Istchee schools. We are very fortunate to be working alongside strong leaders in both organizations. They have been, and continue to be, invaluable allies in making our shared vision a reality. Although 2019–2020 proved to be especially challenging with the arrival of COVID-19, our partnership has made it possible to keep making food deliveries to families with children in most communities.
We have seen many ups and downs along the way, but we finally opened breakfast programs in Chisasibi, in the two remaining Eeyou Nation schools without a program, namely James Bay Eeyou School and Waapinichikush Elementary, in December. Together these two schools have more than 1,000 students. The first food delivery to the community was awaited with great anticipation, and the programs have been very successful indeed, as indicated by their respective administrations:
“We have only had positive results since starting our breakfast program. Students are getting to school on time for a change, and they now have the energy to get through the morning!”
Principal, James Bay Eeyou School, Chisasibi
“The students’ basic needs are met, and they are more focused in class. They are happy to have good, nutritious snacks and look forward to them every day.”
Principal, Waapinichikush Elementary School, Chisasibi
Meegwetch to everyone who has helped make this happen!