Paulatuk, N.W.T., family goes hungry without food bank

The community of Paulatuk, N.W.T., has been without a food bank for almost a year, and at least one family doesn't know where to turn.

Western Arctic MP says solving Northern food issues 'requires some new thinking'

The Paulatuk Center houses the community's hotel, Northern store and offices. (CBC)

The community of Paulatuk, N.W.T., has been without a food bank for almost a year, and at least one family doesn’t know where to turn.

Judy Kudlak says she and her teenage daughter have been relying on friends and family to eat, but she feels she can’t keep asking them for help.

"Sometimes we don't eat for two days and sometimes we'll just have rice to eat or tea with no sugar that's how rough it is down here," she said.

The high cost of food in Northern communities is a big part of the problem. A 2008 price survey by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development found groceries to feed a family of four for a week cost $476 in Paulatuk. 

"I got a cheque for $38 from income support, that's for the whole month of June and July," Kudlak said. "We had to live on $38 and that was nothing. I was so embarrassed to go to the store with $38. I wanted to rip it up and tell them to take it back because I couldn't really get nothing to eat. I got something to eat for that day."

Kudlak thought maybe there would be a shipment of food she could access on the next barge. A national organization sometimes sends food to Northern communities but it won't be coming through this year.

"During the summer we just didn't have enough food to send up to northern communities to be able to assist," said Marzena Gersho with Food Banks Canada.

Kudlak has been in touch with Western Arctic MP Dennis Bevington, but he doesn't have any immediate solutions either.

"It's a shame in this day and age that we can have situations like this but that's the reality of the cost of living in these small isolated communities," he said.

"You know even the simplest food they can purchase is so expensive that people are turning away a little bit from the concept of sharing that they had in the past because they simply can't afford to do it anymore."

Bevington said municipalities and the territorial government need to step in to help people in Paulatuk.

He said he hopes to see food banks re-established in small communities but said the food donations won't come from families in the community already struggling to make ends meet.

"I think that whole situation around food in the North requires some new thinking," he said. "I encourage people to consider how we can do a better job of this."

Kudlak said she isn't sure what she is going to do but that she hopes by telling her story, people will reach out to help.