Special deliveries head to Churchill homes thanks to food drive

Fresh free food will be given out Thursday to people living in Churchill thanks to a recent food drive in Winnipeg.

Suspension of only rail line to northern Manitoba community has meant tough times for many

Belinda Fitzpatrick and a team of other volunteers will be handing out fresh produce to people living in Churchill Thursday morning. (Vicky McEwan/Submitted)

Fresh food will be making its way into the homes of people living in Churchill — many of whom have been struggling to make ends meet — thanks to a recent food drive.

"When you actually walk in there and see how much stuff is here it's pretty awesome," said Belinda Fitzpatrick, a volunteer in Churchill who was kept busy Wednesday getting the food organized and ready to hand out to residents Thursday.

"I think people are going to be very excited."

The suspension of the only rail line to Churchill in 2017 after spring flooding has meant food must be shipped by air to the northern Manitoba community raising already high grocery prices.

Toni deLaroque of Danica's Village and Winnipeg Blue Bomber Alumni member Mike Hameluck partnered together to organize the food drive.

Hameluck contacted deLaroque wanting to do a drive for the community after she did her own drive back in December in honour of her late-daughter Danica deLaroque.

"I feel very energized," Toni deLaroque said. "When I did this drive at Christmas there was so much appreciation from all the people up there."

Five-year-old Danica died in 2016 when her canoe capsized in Churchill.

Vicky McEwan keeps watch on food that will be handed out in Churchill Thursday. (Belinda Fitzpatrick/Submitted)

Mom of girl who died gives back

"When we lost our daughter, Churchill definitely grieved for us," said deLaroque. 

"It wasn't just us up there that felt the loss, it was for sure the town. They supported us when we lost our little girl, so it's been very important for me to support them in their time of need."

Though she wasn't able to make it to Churchill to take part on Thursday, deLaroque plans to fly up to the community on Friday when a shipment of non-perishable food items from the drive is expected to arrive in town.

Fitzpatrick estimates there are 15 pallets of fresh produce and bread ready to be handed out Thursday morning.

She owns a hotel and restaurant in Churchill but said even if she wanted to she couldn't hire any staff. Hard times in the community have meant it's just her and one employee running the business.

"It's been a struggle since the loss of the rail line and there's not a lot of work in town. The cost of food obviously has gone up."

Regardless, she says the food donations will mean temporary financial relief for many in the community who will get to save a little money on groceries.

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​Austin Grabish is a reporter for CBC News in Winnipeg. Since joining CBC in 2016, he's covered several major stories. Some of his career highlights have been documenting the plight of asylum seekers leaving America in the dead of winter for Canada and the 2019 manhunt for two teenage murder suspects. In 2021, he won an RTDNA Canada award for his investigative reporting on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which triggered change. Have a story idea? Email: