British Columbia

Valemount residents fear losing only grocery store in the village

Residents of the Village of Valemount in eastern B.C. are worried about access to fresh food as the only grocery store in the community struggles with supply and refrigeration issues.

The local IGA closed on Sunday unexpectedly, leaving many without access to groceries

Shelves and fridges sit barren as the IGA in Valemont, B.C., located on Highway 5 near the Alberta border. (Meg Aspey)

Residents of the Village of Valemount in eastern B.C. are worried about access to fresh food as the only grocery store in the community struggles with supply and refrigeration issues.

Customers have complained of empty store shelves for weeks, and have also raised concerns about food safety during the recent heatwave. Meg Aspey says she was shocked by what she saw walking into the store last week when temperatures reached 40 C. 

"You would walk in and the fruit and vegetable area, all the lights were off… it was all barren, not so much food on the shelves... There was one brick of cheese... You kind of touch things and it's not super cold." 

In a local Facebook group, residents have complained of spoiled meat and other goods due to the lack of adequate refrigeration.

'It's essential..'

Resident Shae-lynn Carlson says the issues plaguing the local IGA have been affecting the community for months, but they reached a crisis point as temperatures soared.

"It's our only grocery store. Obviously, it's essential.... It just feels like it's been handled inappropriately and it's really worrisome for folks that really rely on it."

Residents worry about losing access to fresh produce if their only grocery store has to close its doors. (Meg Aspey)

The store's manager declined an interview with CBC. Mark McCurdy of the Georgia Main Food Group, the company that owns the Valemount IGA, did not respond to a request for comment but spoke to local newspaper, the Rocky Mountain Goat. The paper quoted him saying a lack of adequate ventilation and air conditioning, as well as a broken compressor, are to blame and that they are "moving mountains" to restore service. 

Northern Health said they are aware of concerns in the community about food safety, and are working with management to ensure health protocols are being followed.

Nestled between the Rockies and the Cariboo Mountains, Valemount is home to approximately 1,000 residents and attracts many tourists each year due its proximity to Mount Robson Provincial Park and Jasper National Park.

For many hikers, Valemount is the last stop for supplies before entering the parks on camping trips and day hikes. The next closest grocery store is in McBride, 85 km away. 

While the extra travel is an inconvenience for her, Meg Aspey says she is most concerned for residents who don't drive or can't afford the added cost of gas. 

"There are many members of our community that don't have that ability." 

Mayor Owen Torgerson says council is aware of the situation and working with store owners to find a remedy.


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