Nunavik mulls community food bank plan

Region seeking a “local solution to a local problem”


KANGIRSUK — Nunavik’s regional government is looking at a variety of measures, such as a network of community food banks, to help people in the region eat better.

Quebec, along with Makivik Corp. and the Kativik Regional Government, already supports regional programs aimed at lowering the cost of healthy store-bought food.

These include the distribution of monthly food coupons from $50 to $100 to elders, diabetics, the disabled or families on welfare.

But that’s not enough.

Single mothers in Nunavik have a “very, very” hard struggle putting food on the table for their children, regional councillors from Akulivik and Kangirsuk said May 30 at a Kativik Regional Government council meeting in the Ungava Bay community of Kangirsuk.

Single mothers who work aren’t eligible for the food coupon program — and those who don’t receive country foods from hunters in their extended families suffer.

As a solution, the KRG has already developed a food bank pilot project for Kangiqsualujjuaq, a village with a population of about 700.

However, with the surplus money from the KRG, there’s only enough money to operate that food bank — the first in Nunavik — for three months.

Adel Yassa, director of the KRG’s economic development progam, has another idea to explore, which could make food banks more feasible.

Yassa told the councillors that local stores, such as the co-ops and Northern stores, may be contacted to see if they’re willing to commit a small percentage of their monthly revenues towards a community food bank.

Such a food bank would be able to provide people with basic food supplies like flour and other dry goods, he said.

“I think the merchandisers have a social responsibility” to share some of their success with the most needy in society, Yassa said.

Donations from shoppers willing to buy pre-packaged bags of food for use at the food bank could also help keep the food banks stocked with food.

No government money is likely to come to Nunavik to pay for food banks, Yassa told Nunatsiaq News.

That’s why he said it’s important to find a “local solution to a local problem.”

Beneficiaries in Nunavik do have access to community freezers, operated and stocked by the region’s hunter support program. There, people can take country foods such as caribou or char for free when they’re available.

As for the food coupon program, it’s been in operation since 2004.

But its yearly budget of $1.5 million, which comes from Quebec, ends next March. The KRG is already looking around for other government money to continue that program, said KRG chair Maggie Emudluk.

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