Emergency food starts to flow into Arviat, Nunavut’s COVID-19 hotspot

“They will have a speedy recovery by eating more healthy food at home”

The Hamlet of Arviat is working with local stores to get more than $500,000 worth of food to households in the community that’s suffering Nunavut’s largest COVID-19 outbreak. (File photo)

By Jane George

Deliveries of food for Arviat households, where there were 57 cases COVID-19 on Nov. 19, are on the way.

The Hamlet of Arviat said $500,000 worth of food is being shipped to Arviat, along with 26 pallets of food from Food Banks Canada.

The food assistance comes from the $200 million Emergency Fund for food security, first announced by Ottawa in April, to position food banks and local food organizations early in the pandemic to respond to increased community needs.

Now, the roughly 3,000 residents of Arviat, where food insecurity affects many, are experiencing those increased needs.

Among others in Arviat, Shelton Nipisar, the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit research assistant at the Aqqiumavvik Society, said he welcomes the assistance.

That’s because eating well will help his fellow Arviamiut, especially those who are dealing with COVID-19.

“I’m hoping they can get more healthy food to stabilize their basic needs,” Nipisar said. “I hope they will have a speedy recovery by eating more healthy food at home.”

Nipisar, 25, said he was tested in October for COVID-19 himself when he developed a cold — before the current wave of new coronavirus infections hit the town — but he tested negative.

Like many in Arviat, Nipisar said he’s grateful for the help his community has received, and he’s grateful to the Government of Nunavut in particular.

“The GN stepped up their game. They have been helping us out a lot. I would like to thank all the people who are helping us with this situation,” he said.

There are also private gestures of help in Arviat: this week, Jim Ramsay, owner of the Arctic Connection store, along with his helpers, cooked 150 meals of meat, potatoes and vegetables, which were distributed to people in need of a hot meal.

As for Nipisar, he’s now working at home, where he lives with his father.

A two-week lockdown started for all non-essential workers in Nunavut on Nov. 18 in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

So Nipisar said he gets out only when it’s necessary.

“I double-check what I need when I go shopping and I usually go for a therapeutic walk,” he said.

In any event, it’s not as boring or difficult as the two weeks he spent in an isolation hub in Winnipeg last April before heading to Arviat.

Nipisar, then in this second year of studies at the Ottawa-based Nunavut Sivuniksavut college program, was one of more than 60 Nunavut post-secondary students who passed through a two-week quarantine before being allowed to fly to Nunavut.

On March 19, as concern about COVID-19 started to increase, the GN had told students like Nipisar, who were receiving money for their studies from its Financial Assistance for Nunavut Students, or FANS program, to stay put — a decision that the GN changed within days.

During Nipisar’s long period of isolation and quarantine, he said he suffered from extreme anxiety, stress, fear and even recurrent nosebleeds.

But this time, he said he’s doing ok.

To help out, he received a care package from his employer, with  toilet paper, masks, spray disinfectant and snacks.


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