North

Nunavut food centre prepares for possibility of leaner years ahead

Government relief money for food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic has served the Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre well this year, but its executive director is worried the facility will struggle once pandemic funding dries up.

'I’m worried we’re going to have a lot less sources of funding in the future,' director says

A staff member at the Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre in Iqaluit prepares a take-out meal. Dine-in meal service at the centre will start again in the new year, if public health measures allow. (Matisse Harvey)

Government relief money for food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic has served the Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre well this year, its executive director says.

But, Wade Thorhaug said he's worried the centre and its relied-upon hot meals program will face meagre years in the future when pandemic funding dries up.   

"I don't feel that this problem of food insecurity in Nunavut is going to go away anytime soon, even after the pandemic is over, whenever that is, and I'm just worried that we're going to have a lot less sources of funding in the future," he said.

"I don't think the federal government can keep up this momentum."

To offer five-day meal service the centre relies mainly on donations from local businesses and community groups.

Those are through cash and in-kind offerings such as the kitchen renovations it saw this year through donated materials and labour from local companies. 

Renovations at the centre are around $15,000 in materials plus labour from Bird Construction, NCC Development, Narwhal Plumbing and Heating, and KRT Electrical, Thorhaug said, adding that the upgrades make for a more usable space. 

Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre director Wade Thorhaug says he's preparing for fewer donations in the post-pandemic years. (Matisse Harvey)

Early in the pandemic, the centre was only able to offer take-out service, but was later able to open up again for meal services and community programming, such as cooking classes for kids, a women's group, and a career skills training program. 

That's until a two-week lockdown was ordered for the whole territory in late November, when COVID-19 broke out in the Kivalliq region. 

With the lockdown over in Iqaluit, the centre is open now as a respite space for people to get out of the cold. Take-out meal service is ongoing while the centre prepares to open for indoor dining and community programming in the new year, should public health restrictions allow. 

"We have to respect public health measures but it's concerning for us to not have these spaces for people, particularly people who are housing-insecure, to gather and warm up and have a common space," Thorhaug said.

"We're not the only ones forced to shut our doors during this time and it really limits the number of spaces for people in the community," he said. 

The Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre is selling Christmas cookies in Iqaluit this week to raise money. 

And, on Friday morning, CBC North in Nunavut will host a virtual fundraiser for food banks throughout the North, including the Qajuqturvik Food Centre, the Arctic Food Bank and the Niqinik Nuatsivik Nunavut Food Bank. 

CBC Nunavut's morning radio show Qulliq on Friday will include carolling, and more information about the fundraiser.

With files from Matisse Harvey

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