Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club: Tackling Hunger One Friday At a Time (COM0011 BLOG#1)

Long before I was a teenager, I was cooking meals for my family. My mother worked outside the home and I identified a need to pitch in early on. I started with relatively simple things: meatloaf, onion soup, sandwiches. I started baking at the same time. I still remember the awful tasting cakes and cookies I made until I learned the difference between baking soda and baking powder.

When I became a mother at 40, it became very important to me to make sure that my own child would be a proficient cook. Just a few days after I gave birth, I strapped my son to my chest and started cooking. He took to it immediately and before he even started Kindergarten, he was rolling out pizza dough and making cookies with me. I started to think about hosting weekly cooking classes for kids in my home, but when he started school at Nanook School in Apex (just outside of Iqaluit), Nunavut, I had an even better idea: ask the principal if I could teach a weekly after-school cooking class for kids.  The school embraced the idea and the rest is history.

We are now halfway through the third year of the program that we call the Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club. Loosely translated from Inuktitut, Mamaqtuq Nanook means tasty polar bear, an appropriate name for a cooking club made up of mostly Inuit kids. The City of Iqaluit provides me with funding through the Brighter Futures program and every Friday from 3:15 – 5 pm, we prepare, cook and eat a simple meal.



We’ve also started to keep track of our recipes in homemade cookbooks to integrate more literacy into our program and to give the kids and their families a souvenir of their efforts.

15940912_1157007634419381_364141200563396615_nWe go on field trips around Iqaluit, invite guest speakers and cooks to join us, and always have a solid period of exercise outside or in the gymnasium. We all leave with full bellies. Check out our school and look at lots of photographs of our activities!

Many of you will have read or heard about the food security crisis faced by many residents of Nunavut. Many families don’t have the resources to regularly buy or hunt food, so many kids go to school hungry. This was one of the reasons why I started the Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club: if you teach children to prepare food from scratch, they may be able to stretch their dollars further and buy more food, and possibly make healthier choices about the kind of food they purchase to feed their own families in the future. Food insecurity is a very complicated issue, but the cooking club might possibly make a small contribution to the community I call home. Want to learn more about Nunavut’s food security crisis? Read this:

It’s too early to determine how well this long-term goal is going to be met, but I can tell you that the short-term success of this program is overwhelming. These kids, between 20-30 of them every week from Grades 1-5, are quickly developing serious food preparation skills. Every time we cook, they become more skilled.



For example, last Friday we travelled by school bus (thanks for the donation to RL Hanson!) to the Qayuqtuvik Food Centre in Iqaluit and prepared hundreds of meatballs for soup kitchen clients.

The amount of time I budgeted for the kids to roll the meatballs was way too much and we ended up calling the bus to pick us up early.


The club participants have catered a meeting, volunteered and prepared food at many different locations around town, hosted a community feast and three Christmas concerts, and raised enough money through their efforts to buy a new fridge, stove, range hood and tables for the school.

We’ve been very fortunate to be so well supported by the community of Iqaluit. So many people contribute their time and energy in different ways. The grocery store gives us a discount, we get a free bus ride each month, we have parents and community members who work with us from time to time, and the school staff are always willing to give us the opportunity to showcase our developing talents to our families and community. We’ve also been treated very well by the traditional media.

For the next several weeks, I will write about different aspects of the Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club. I’ve used Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay connected with cooking club families and the community, but I really hope the blog works out because it would be an even more effective way of keeping in touch with people and documenting our work. I think broadcasting the work of clubs like ours through social media and a blog could be very successful in helping other schools around Nunavut set up their own cooking club.

I hope you enjoy the read! Please let me know if you want to contribute in some way to our program  or if you have any great tips or tricks for teaching kids to cook. I look forward to hearing from.

Kerry McCluskey


Facebook Promotion Post

Do you ever wonder what kids in the Arctic do on a Friday afternoon after school? Wonder no more: Check out this great blog about the Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club, an after-school cooking program offered at Nanook School in Iqaluit, Nunavut. We discuss how we teach kids to read and write recipes, shop, prepare and cook food – all on a budget in one of Canada’s most expensive cities. Grab a coffee and a snack and sit back for a fun read! You may even be inspired to set up a cooking club at your own kid’s school. Check us out on Facebook at

Twitter Promotion Post

The #mamaqtuqnanookcookingclub has a new blog. Stay tuned as we learn to cook and contribute to Iqaluit and Apex!



10 thoughts on “Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club: Tackling Hunger One Friday At a Time (COM0011 BLOG#1)

    • Thank you for your support. My greatest hope is that somewhere along the way, I make a different in one small person’s life. I also really hope that my own son internalizes these lessons of cooking, volunteerism and love and emulates them in his own life one day.

  1. Hi Kerry,

    I love the work you are doing in the schools. Growing up my family didn’t always have the financial resources to provide healthy and fresh meals so we had a lot of frozen and boxed meals. You can imagine how terrible of a cook I am because of that haha. When I first moved out on my own I had to google basic cooking techniques like how to boil eggs. I’m confident that if more schools implemented these programs there would not only be less obesity among children but also better future cooks!

    I’m sure the kids really enjoy the chance to get hands on experience cooking from scratch and learning new things to bring home to their families. By the sounds of it, you are running an amazing program that I’m sure will be around for a really long time.

    Best wishes!

  2. Hi Kerry,
    What a great initiative that you’ve started! Not only does it teach kids independence or how to learn basic cooking techniques but it’s also an awareness in promoting better healthy eating habits for kids.Involving the whole community and families is the right approach as a team into achieving good health and well being. Having been a primary teacher for 10 years at an International School this very inspiring and it’s an initiative to look into, thanks.
    Good luck!

    • Thanks Joey. My dream is to set up similar clubs in lots of schools, although running just one while working full-time is all I can manage. Letting it percolate for now. Let me know if you need any tips!

      • I know it’s a lot to manage but you’re doing such great work. It would be amazing to see such dream develop in lots of other schools, good luck!

  3. Hi Kerry,
    Thank you for your post. What a great way to help build your community! I’m sure the kids love learning to cook different things with you. It is so important to teach kids those skills early on because they will stay with them through adulthood. I do something similar with my son’s kindergarten class. We started last year when he was in JK. I come in once a week and bake something with a small group of students which rotate every week. They then get to share their creation with the rest of the class. I was really surprised at first to see how many children had never baked before. My surprise turned to joy however when I saw them progress throughout the year,
    Keep up the good work!


    • hi Liz – right back at you with the congratulations. It is a very rewarding aspect of my life. The pride in their faces makes it all worth it. I’m also grateful to the school for even considering the program. Looking forward to connecting with you more during the program.

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