Pass the peas

Nunavut food bank will make room at its dining table for other communities across the territory



Newly elected board members of the Nunavut food bank are pledging to increase the organization’s presence across the territory, after being chosen June 22 at the group’s annual general meeting.

Denise Gilby, board member at large, said 2003-04 would be the year Iqaluit’s Niqiniq Nuatsivik expands its operations. Already, the group has successfully brought the communities of Arviat and Cambridge Bay on board.

Others elected to the board include Peter Irniq, returning chair, Marje Lalonde, returning vice-chair, Jen Creber, secretary, Annie Ningeok, treasurer, and members at large Poasie Joamie, Barbara Henderson and Natalie Plato.

Irniq was recently in touch with Keith Peterson, chair of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities and mayor of Cambridge Bay, to devise a strategy for strengthening linkages with other Nunavut communities and organizations.

Irniq also met recently with the mayor and SAO of Arviat, and provided that community, and Cambridge Bay, with $500 each in initial funding to help the two communities start up a local chapter.

“Our ongoing plan is to increase our presence in other communities. And we could use more board members as resources to help carry that out,” Gilby added.

That effort will also be propelled forward by the group’s recent induction into the Canadian Association of Food Banks, which links the group with other food banks across the country. This linkage opens the door to numerous opportunities, such as food-sharing between different chapters.

The CAFB is a national umbrella association representing 250 member food banks across the country. It has a paid staff of only four who rely on thousands of volunteers and supporters. And while it provides people with food on a daily basis, its ultimate goal is to one day have a hunger-free Canada.

“I believe we are the only group in northern Canada that has that linkage,” Gilby remarked.

“We can actually purchase food from some of the larger centres, which helps reduce costs because it’s a lot cheaper. We are also working on trying to find better ways of bringing food up here. Sometimes we can have the cost of that donated to us.”

To gain membership, the local group had to provide statistics on how much food they give out, who their clientele is, and how often the food bank is open. References reflecting the community’s recognition of the food bank’s hard work were also submitted.

And although the local chapter subscribes to the same philosophy of one day working themselves out of a job, Gilby admits that dream is very far off from the current reality.

“We are working towards eliminating the need for food banks, but I don’t know when we will get there. It’s been a struggle for us just to keep going.”

There’s no shortage of food shortages at the Iqaluit food bank, which hands out perishable goods to about 200 people every second Saturday from its location in the blue dome building across from Northmart.

“We go through food incredibly fast. We try to give people enough to stretch out over two weeks, but it’s never going to be enough.

“However, this isn’t meant to replace what people should be getting from the department of health and social services. That can’t be our role. It’s not meant to be.”

Even if the group can’t put an end to hunger in the capital city or around the territory, it’s still dedicated to helping as much as possible, and to getting the message out that there are people who go hungry everyday.

“What we are trying to get across is that there shouldn’t be a need for food banks,” Gilby added.

Far less stringent than the government, the food bank’s criteria for determining need is based on the honour system.

“We don’t judge anyone that comes in. If you come in and say you need it, then we take you at your word.”

But they we do keep track of the number of people in each household, information that must be given upon first visit to the food bank.

Yet, the volunteers don’t ever want people to feel that they’re being judged, or policed, Gilby added.

While the familiar tables collecting food and money donations will be set up at various outlets such as Northmart, the group is adding a few new items to their fundraising agenda for this upcoming year.

Thanks to a $16,000 donation from First Air, collected at the airline’s charity ball last year, the group will have a little petty cash to use for bigger fundraising events.

There’s been talk of a diamonds and denims event, although nothing has been ironed out yet.

But Lalonde, who is turning 80 this fall, has proposed to hold a birthday bash on her big day, and she encourages guests to bring items for the food bank instead of gifts.

“We are trying to strategize how to best use that money. We could probably go through that money in a couple months so that’s why we are being really careful about how it’s being used. Who knows when we are going to get that kind of donation again,” Gilby remarked.

“In an ideal world we wouldn’t be needed, but we are,” Gilby added.

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