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As gas vouchers end, food bank looks to solutions for country food

The Iqaluit Niqinik Nuatsivik Nunavut Food Bank is trying to increase access to country food. The food bank has just ended a three-month pilot project that gave out vouchers for bullets and gas to reduce barriers to hunting.

Iqaluit food bank provided vouchers for gas and bullets gave hunters more access to country food

Certificates to be traded in for bullets and gas. The smiley faces are covering the clients name for privacy reasons. (Submitted by Bruce McRae)

The Iqaluit Niqinik Nuatsivik Nunavut Food Bank is trying to increase access to country food.

Country food can include fish, caribou, muskox, seal, whale and other meat from the land. The food bank just ended a three-month pilot project that gave out vouchers for bullets and gas to encourage hunting.

The food bank has been working on a solution to provide clients with more country food for about two years. Through the Qikiqtani Inuit Association's cultural activities program, the food bank secured $15,000 to run the pilot project.

"One of the ways people say they don't have access to country food is because it is very expensive to harvest," said Bruce McRae, chairperson of the food bank.

The money went to gifts certificates at Iqaluit's Baffin gas bar for between $20 and $60 that could be used for bullets, or gas to fill a snow machine.

"If you want to go out and bring home food that has caloric and nutritional value to your family — cultural value to your family — you need money," McRae said.

Bruce McRae, chair person Niqinik Nuatsivik Nunavut Food Bank. The food bank has been working on a solution to provide clients with more country food for about two years. (David Gunn/CBC)

Every other week the food bank would distribute about $2,000 worth of certificate to about 100 families.

"The two expressions of client's response would be empowerment and gratitude," said McRae. "This allowed them to bring something to the table to share themselves."

McRae said the food bank is only able to provide grocery store food typical in the South, which has no cultural value to Inuit.

"Inuit craving for country food is something the food bank has a really hard time satisfying," said McRae.

McRae said the food bank is looking at the results of the pilot project and how they can make it sustainable long term. They're exploring options such as reallocating internal food bank purchasing money to continue the bullets and gas voucher system.

"It really makes a difference to our clients and they made that clear to us," said McRae.

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