Manitoba

Donated food destined for Churchill stuck in Thompson warehouse

Roughly 9,000 pounds of donated food destined for families in Churchill, Man., is stranded more than 400 kilometres southwest of their target.

9,000 pounds of food were to be shipped by ice road to community after rail line suspended last spring

The only rail line to Churchill, Man., has been suspended since spring 2017 due to damage from spring flooding. Food has had to be shipped by air, driving up costs, or by ice road. (CBC)

Roughly 9,000 pounds of donated food destined for families in Churchill, Man., is stranded more than 400 kilometres southwest of their target.

The grains and cereals are sitting in a Calm Air warehouse in Thompson after the ice road that a charity was hoping to use for transport is closing for the season.

Organizers of the food drive for the northern Manitoba community are now rushing to raise funds to move their final shipment of food, said Mike Hameluck, who helped organize the drive as a Winnipeg Blue Bomber Alumni project.

Calm Air already flew 20,000 pounds of perishables and canned goods to Churchill for free as part of the drive, Hameluck said. The last load was supposed to be taken by vehicles on an ice road, but that plan was scrapped because the road is closing for the season.

Eleven pallets are still sitting in the Calm Air warehouse — but they can't for much longer.

"Their space is run out, so we're going to have to move this stuff within a week, one way or the other," Hameluck said.

Hameluck later clarified the airline isn't pressuring organizers to move the food.

"Calm Air has been such a great corporate partner through this drive," he said via email.

'We need to get it up there'

He and other organizers need to find $6,400 to pay a discount rate offered by Calm Air to fly the food into Churchill, or they'll have to disperse it among other communities closer to Thompson.

"I'd really hate to do that, because this is really needed in Churchill right now," he said.

It's been nearly a year since the only rail line to Churchill was suspended after being badly damaged by spring flooding in 2017. The suspension has meant food must be shipped by air or ice road to the northern Manitoba community, raising already high grocery prices.

Hameluck partnered with Winnipeg charity Danica's Village for the drive after the group did another food drive in December. The first two loads of perishables and canned goods arrived in Churchill last month.

If the food gets to Churchill, it will likely go to people in the community as well as breakfast programs at the school and daycare, Hameluck said.

"For the people of Churchill, we need to get it up there as quick as possible," he said.

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