More than 7,000 kilograms of food headed to Sanirajak

3 southern churches collect $25,000 to ship donations to community

Catholic high school students in southern Ontario painted a mural on the container filled with 7,200 kilograms of food that is being shipped to Sanirajak. (Photo courtesy of George Quesnelle)

By Jorge Antunes

A shipping container packed with about 7,200 kilograms of food is expected to arrive in Sanirajak by mid-September to help stock the hamlet’s food bank.

Three Catholic parishes from southern Ontario are behind the move, raising close to $25,000 for the project.

They spent just over year collecting donations from community members as part of the North of 60 program, which works to improve secure access to food for people in northern communities across Canada.

Irene Morgan, whose late mother Martha Anguratsiaq started the food bank in Sanirajak in 2018, agrees. She said the price of food has gone “way up” over the past few years, especially in the North.

“Some cannot afford to buy food, [they don’t] have enough money to feed their whole family,” she said.

“For those that are unemployed, they are going to be so happy to have food to feed their family.”

Lillian Nuvviaq volunteers at the food bank. She said it hasn’t received any food donations for a couple months.

“I believe people are going to be very happy,” Nuvviaq said.

The 7,200-kg container — about similar in weight to three Ford Super-Duty pick-up trucks — is filled with rice, pasta, flour, canned goods and other non-perishable items.

The North of 60 program is run by the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in Ottawa. It has donated food to other Nunavut communities such as Whale Cove, Naujaat, Chesterfield Inlet and Rankin Inlet.

This will be the first donation to Sanirajak, said project leader George Quesnelle, a member of St. John Chrysostom Church parish in Newmarket, Ont., one of the three churches involved in the shipment.

The other two churches are St. Elizabeth Seton, also in Newmarket, and Our Lady of Grace in nearly Aurora, Ont.

About 17 parishes in southern Canada have partnered with communities in the North to provide assistance, Quesnelle said.

Programs like this have become important to members of his church, he said, particularly after Pope Francis’s visit to Canada in 2022.

The Pope made appearances in Edmonton, Quebec City and Iqaluit to apologize for the Catholic Church’s role in residential school abuse.

“I think that resonated with a lot of people,” Quesnelle said.

Quesnelle said it wasn’t difficult to get people to donate. Often, he didn’t have to say much more than that he was involved in a charity for Northern communities, and people were eager to help.

He said people liked the idea that donations were going to a specific community — even one more than 2,700 kilometres away — rather than into a big pot.

“Every cent that we have raised was used to purchase items for them to use and consume in the Arctic,” he said.

The cost of the sealift was paid separately. To ship one container costs approximately $7,500.

Students from the Catholic high school in Newmarket painted a mural on the container depicting local wildlife and a river stretching like a banner across it.

In Sanirajak, Roger Beaudry is handling logistics for the arrival of the donation.

“We will put some [food] in the food bank, but our food space is very limited,” he said.

The food bank is operated out of the home of its co-ordinator, Laura Jeannie Amarualik. It’s not big enough to store such a large quantity of items, so much of it will be distributed to community members when the sealift arrives.

Amarualik said the donation will be helpful though.

“This will help the reduce the poverty trap,” she said.


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