Business closure throws soup kitchen into crisis

As Nunavut Catering shuts down, Iqaluit volunteers start up



Volunteers at Iqaluit’s busy soup kitchen went into crisis mode last week when Nunavut Catering announced that Friday would be the last day the company could provide hot soup and sandwiches to the Anglican church’s volunteer group.

Over the weekend, volunteers cooked in their homes to serve hot dinners out of building 1041. On Monday, the group hired chef Cam Gee, who cooked lunch for 63 in the kitchen at the parish hall.

“It’s a short-term solution,” said Archdeacon John Tyrrell, who recently arrived from Yellowknife to take over for Ron McLean at the St. Jude’s Anglican Cathedral.

Gee will continue to cook in the parish hall until the soup kitchen committee selects a commercial contractor to do the cooking work, but Tyrrell is aware that there are already many other demands for that building.

A new soup kitchen has been in the works for some time, and is to be up and running in a brand new building by October.

Demolition will begin next month at the old mission house next to the igloo-shaped church where the new building will go up. Pilings will soon be drilled to prepare for quick construction once supplies arrive on the first sealift.

The crisis comes just six weeks from the end of the fiscal year, when the soup kitchen is already stretching its last dollars, and the number of hungry people is going up.

The soup kitchen usually serves about 50 people a day, but last week, that number rose to 65. On weekends, about 35 or 40 people usually show up for dinner.

Overall, Tyrrell said there has been a 20 per cent increase in customers since last year.

From Monday to Friday, volunteers serve hot soup and a sandwich to about 50 people who meet at building 1041 at noon to get it while it’s hot. There are no kitchen facilities in the building, donated by the Qikiqtaaluk Corp. and located next to the First Steps daycare across from the Iqaluit Legion. And though there is heat and electricity, the plumbing is frozen solid.

On weekends, hot dinners are served in the evening, usually featuring a stew, meat pie or something else substantial.

“For some of these people it truly is their only meal of the day,” Tyrrell said.

Crises like this should happen less frequently once the new soup kitchen is up and running. Then, the plan is for a full-time chef to train others in cooking.

Tyrrell hopes that the building can also be used for other purposes, such as wellness counseling,

Nunavut Catering could not be reached before Nunatsiaq News press time on Wednesday. The company’s telephone number is no longer in service.

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