Nunavut organizations announce $2M boost to community food programs during pandemic

Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated and the government of Nunavut said the new funding will go directly hamlets to spend on food programs for elders and children.

Funding will go directly to hamlets to spend on food for elders, children

Volunteers with the Ilisaqsivik Society in Clyde River, Nunavut, prepare food hampers for residents. The government of Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated announced $2 million in new spending for community food programs Friday. (Submitted by the Ilisaqsivik Society)

Community food programs that provide meals to children and elders in Nunavut are receiving $2 million in new funding from the territorial government and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, the organization representing Inuit in Nunvaut.

The funding was announced in a news release Friday "as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic." NTI and the Nunavut government are each contributing $1 million.

As of Friday evening, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the territory, with 216 tests results still pending.

"Food security in Nunavut has always been an issue, and it continues to be an issue," said NTI President Aluki Kotierk at a press conference Friday. "It is a particularly concerning challenge when we are in a global pandemic, when schools are closed, [and] when children who may have relied on breakfast programs are no longer able to rely on that.

"It is crucial that we make this investment now," she said.

According to the release, funds will be distributed directly to hamlets according to community size. Communities under 1,000 people will receive $40,000, and those over 1,000 will receive $90,000. Iqaluit has been allocated $200,000.

"We recognize that it is the communities that are the experts in how best to have these programs delivered," said Kotierk, "and they will be in charge of making sure food security is addressed."

NTI President Aluki Kotierk said the funding was a 'preventative measure.' (Vince Robinet/CBC)

Contribution agreements are expected to be finalized with hamlets next week, according to the release.

"Meals are intended to be balanced and healthy, and all food preparation will adhere to physical distancing practices," it reads.

"We know that when bodies have the right types of good, nutritious food, they're in a better position to boost their immunity," said Kotierk, calling the spending a "preventative measure."

"We want Inuit to be in the position to fight off the virus if it comes to our communities," she said.

Kotierk ended the press conference with a plea to Inuit to continue observing physical distancing measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"As Inuit, we love to show our love through eating together, by using our kinship network, by showing affection to our children," she said. "And though this is not part of our culture, it is important that we maintain the physical distancing in the short term."

With files from Beth Brown