North

Iqaluit man uses free Amazon shipping to fuel food charity

Michael Murphy uses Amazon’s free shipping to make food donations to local schools and now he wants to expand his giving to others throughout Nunavut’s Baffin Island region.

Michael Murphy hopes to expand free food program to other Baffin Island communities

Michael Murphy takes advantage of online retailer's free shipping to the city to make food donations to local schools 1:36

An Iqaluit man has taken advantage of Amazon's free shipping to the city to make food donations to local schools. Now he wants to expand his giving to other schools throughout Nunavut's Baffin Island region.

"The need's not going away," said Michael Murphy of the high local food prices that have driven him to ditch his shopping cart for his computer mouse.

'At the post office ... there was a section that was called 'Michael's Section'' says Murphy. (CBC)

Since November Murphy has shipped $7,000 worth of food to several schools in Iqaluit.

He started in November 2015 by asking for donations to help pay for breakfast and lunch programs and food hampers at the schools.

He bought all the food — peanut butter, cereal, soup, breakfast bars — on Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

"That's where you get the best buying power," Murphy said.

Free shipping key to program

Amazon.ca charges substantial shipping fees to shoppers living outside of the Nunavut capital.

What it costs on Amazon to ship 12 cans of Campbell's chicken noodle soup to Pond Inlet, Nunavut. The same order can be shipped for free to Iqaluit. (CBC)

Someone from Pond Inlet ordering a dozen 284-millilitre cans of Campbell's chicken noodle soup would have to pay $121 in shipping and handling fees — 12 times the cost of the soup.

But someone placing the same order from Iqaluit has the option of choosing free shipping or slightly faster free shipping using a $79-a-year Amazon Prime account, which is what Murphy has.

"If Amazon ever changes the shipping to Iqaluit, we would be hurting up here," he said. "Our dollar doesn't go very far."

Expanding to other communities

Murphy's next goal is to ship food to other Baffin Island communities — like Pond Inlet, which is a two-and-a-half hour plane ride from Iqaluit — where free Amazon shipping is not an option.

But he knows that, once the items arrive in Iqaluit, shipping them himself to the other communities will be pricey.  

"I'm exploring other avenues for when I start up in the fall to see if I can get it on gratis on a plane to go up there," he said.

Sylvain Charlebois, professor of agriculture at Dalhousie University. (CBC)

Murphy is also talking to schools in the Toronto District School Board about auctioning off art depicting life in the North made by Nunavut schoolchildren, as a way to raise money for shipping outside of Iqaluit.

"If anything the need has just gotten worse and it's not going to go away," he said of those communities.

Sylvain Charlebois, a professor at Dalhousie University's Faculty of Agriculture, says Amazon has the potential to fight food insecurity in the North thanks to the company's sheer size and its ability to keep food prices low and stable. 

"Amazon could actually allow many people to have access to not only good food, but many people up North could actually have access to affordable food as well," he said.

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