North

Iqaluit food centre launches new program to bring wild food to those who need it

The foods are sourced from local hunters in communities across Nunavut such as Clyde River, Naujaat and Pond Inlet who regularly provide country food in their own communities as well.

Program will include three to five different types of country food in each box

People prepare to distribute food at the Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre in Iqaluit. The centre is launching a new food distribution program that will provide Iqalummiut with country foods. (Submitted by Rachel Blais)

A new program from Iqaluit's food centre aims to get country food from local hunters into the hands of Iqalummiut.

The Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre is launching the Inuliqtait food box program starting Jan. 27 with the help of Project Nunavut, an Iqaluit group that supports traditional-focused economic initiatives.

Food boxes will be filled with three to five different types of country food, with five portions in total per box.

The foods are sourced from hunters from Clyde River, Naujaat, Pond Inlet and other Nunavut communities who regularly provide country food in their own communities as well.

"We recognise that many of our community members have a lot of barriers accessing country foods," said Rachel Blais, director of Qajuqturvik.

"Hunting is a very expensive activity. Purchasing and maintaining the equipment, purchasing gas and ammunition and all of the other supplies that hunters need is simply out of reach for many of our community members who are living on lower incomes." 

"We recognise that many of our community members have a lot of barriers accessing country foods," said Rachel Blais, director of Qajuqturvik. (Submitted by Rachel Blais)

According to Blais, Inuliqtait is a community approach to accessing country foods and addressing food insecurity because it connects hunters with community members who may not be able to hunt themselves or who are unable to afford it. 

"Northern food systems and northern food sharing systems are rarely treated as viable economic models," she said.

"We believe that hunting is a genuine food industry that will drive economic growth and expand food production capacity in the territory, while also reducing the rate of food insecurity in Nunavut." 

Pay-what-you-can option

The centre will begin by distributing 40 food boxes to Iqalummiut. The program also has a pay-what-you-can option for those on lower incomes.

"The idea for the country food box was modelled after the Inuit tradition of the feast," she said.

"The idea is that households with the means to support the system provide regular contributions, while those who can't are still able to share in the harvest." 

Iqalummiut who enjoy country food but who face barriers to accessing it can participate in a food box program through the Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre. (Submitted by Rachel Blais)

The importance of country food has long been recognized by the territorial government. 

Premier P.J. Akeeagok recently announced new funding for Hunters and Trappers Organizations in Nunavut to help harvesters feed communities while the pandemic continues.

For Blais, healthier food options are especially important in Nunavut given the territory is experiencing "overlapping crises between COVID-19 and the current water situation and boil water advisories." 

According to her, Iqalummiut living on lower incomes and some of the more vulnerable community members are often most directly impacted by these types of crises. 

"The benefit of this program starting now is that we know that country foods are some of the most nutritious foods available," Blais said.

"Having access to country foods is not only beneficial for people's health, but it's also beneficial for people's mental health and well being and connection to culture and community."

Iqalummiut interested in receiving a country food box can register online.

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