There’s that old saying that it takes a community to raise a child. Those are words we live by at the Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club. Without the tremendous support of so many people, businesses and organizations in the community of Iqaluit, our after-school cooking program wouldn’t be nearly as vibrant or have such meaningful impact on the lives of our participants.
To recap, the Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club is a weekly after-school cooking program that we offer to Grade 1-5 students at Nanook School in Apex, a tiny suburb located outside of Iqaluit, Nunavut. We receive a small amount of funding from the Brighter Futures program each year to run the program. Between 20-30 students show up each week. We try to offer a fun mix of cooking lessons, literacy exercises, physical exercise, field trips, outdoor activity and guest speakers over the school year. I coordinate the program, (write proposals, budget, plan, shop, prep, clean) and work with a teacher at the school to host the program every Friday. We’re in our third year and it’s getting more popular every year.
Why We Rely So Heavily on Social Media
The popularity of the program with people who don’t attend it each week is a direct result of the reach of social media. Every week before the class begins, I use Facebook to let parents and other community members know what our plans are for the week. This builds interest. During the program, I photograph each stage of the lesson and post these images on Instagram. Everyone loves to see the progress the students make each week. At the conclusion of the program, I post the images and a short summary to the school’s Facebook page, which is linked to the Twitter feed so our activities are immediately broadcast to our audiences using social media.
This social media presence is very important to our program. Because of the positive conversation that we have generated, we receive continuous donations of food, discounted services, free transportation, financial donations, and simple words of praise. This all helps build and promote our reputation as a successful program, which continues to provide leverage when we go to our primary funders.
Donations Make Our Program Thrive
Our budget is small and our cost of food is high. This is why it is so critically important to maintain a strong reputation on social media. We need businesses to fall in love with us so they will continue to want to support us. For example, the local small-guy grocery store, Baffin Canners, gives us a five per cent discount on all purchases. This makes a big difference. We also have the amazing support of Doug Cox who runs the Uquutaq Men’s Shelter in Iqaluit. He receives a lot of food donations and he is generous enough to share with us. This is Doug with one of our young cooks during a field trip to the shelter. Teaching the kids to volunteer and give back to their community is a mainstay of the program.
Nanook School is gracious enough to let us use the school, its kitchen, lobby and gymnasium for free every week. This is Mat Knickelbein, the principal of the school. He’s very supportive of our program. That’s Doug again, and all the cooking club kids sitting in front of the new stove, microwave and range hood we bought in year number two after hosting a community car wash. We raised $2,000 by washing cars one summer afternoon. We advertised the event on Facebook and it was a huge success! Again – community love.
One of our local airlines gave us a break on the freight to fly the appliances to Iqaluit. To say thanks, we hung up their banner and invited them down for a meal one Friday afternoon. Part of the arrangement was that we would thank them publicly on Facebook.
And then there’s the monthly field trips. Community organizations open their doors to us every year. We still plan to get to the grocery store, a restaurant and the homeless shelter again this year. And how do we get there? By school bus, donated by RL Hanson. We’re always sure to thank them using social media so that our audiences know how generous they are.
We are inundated with community visitors each year. For example, we have a Star Wars group in town. The kids dressed in all their finery that day. They still talk about that a year later.
Because the vast majority of the kids at our school are Inuit, I also try to make sure there is a cultural component. This is Joanna Awa talking about what it was like to grow up in Nunavut 50 years ago. She talked about hunger and the importance of seals and taught the kids a game to play with seal bones.
Get Out and Volunteer!
Without Facebook , Twitter and Instagram, we wouldn’t have community members and businesses lining up to volunteer in our program. So, the next time you’re leisurely scrolling through Facebook and see a call for volunteers, get out and volunteer! You’ll make your community a better place to live.
Facebook Promotion Post
You’ll never know how much love there is in a community until you start to volunteer! Check out the Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club (https://www.facebook.com/ApexDEA/) and see how some residents in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada’s tiniest city, unite behind an effort to teach kids how to cook!
Twitter Promotion Post
You’ll never know how much love there is in a community until you start to volunteer! Check out Iqaluit’s #mamaqtuqnanookcookingclub.