Thunder Bay·Audio

Emergency food supplies packed for Pikangikum First Nation

Volunteers at the Regional Food Distribution Association in Thunder Bay are creating individual packages of emergency food supplies to be distributed in times of tragedy or disaster to families in Pikangikum First Nation.

Regional Food Distribution Association pilot project to deliver food for short-term disaster relief

Volunteer Elizabeth Pim puts rice into individual packages as part of the Regional Food Distribution Associations pilot project. Representatives from 17 First Nations and Sioux Lookout are discussing bringing a food distribution centre to Sioux Lookout. (Jody Porter/CBC)
Volunteers at the Regional Food Distribution Association in Thunder Bay are creating individual packages of emergency food supplies to be distributed in times of tragedy or disaster to families in Pikangikum First Nation.

It's part of a pilot project the association is undertaking this winter to discover the logistics of supplying emergency food to remote First Nations in Ontario.

Volker Kromm, the executive director of the Regional Food Distribution Association in Thunder Bay. (Cathy Alex/CBC )
"There has been a demonstrated need, but there hasn't been a really great way of dealing with emergency food requirements" said the association's executive director Volker Kromm. "When there's a crisis situation...such as a fire or untimely death, the community comes together and there is generally a shortage of some pretty basic foods."

On Sunday, teams of volunteers gathered at the RFDA warehouse to repackage bulk goods such as flour, rice and powdered milk into smaller amounts that would provide a small family with enough to eat for a few days.

'For us, it's a test'

Volunteer Elizabeth Pim was helping turn two 20-kilogram bags of rice into hundreds of small bags, each filled with three cups of rice, with cooking instructions stapled on the outside.

"I wanted to help out," she said. "It seemed like a very practical project — feed hungry people."

Bulk bags of flour are divided into bags of four cup each as part of an emergency food box for families in remote First Nations. (Jody Porter/CBC)
The food is being packed in big plastic tote boxes to be sent off this week. Kromm said he plans to personally deliver them, driving a cube van 500 kilometres north to Pikangikum, the last stretch of which is an ice road.

The emergency food supplies will then be distributed to families in the community on an as-needed basis through crisis workers at the health centre or the school.

Kromm said the pilot project will allow his organization and the First Nation to determine whether this system can meet their needs, and then find funding for it.

"For us it's a test. How do we get it there? What products can we ship without freezing and storage?" Kromm said. "These are big questions."

If the questions have satisfactory answers and the plan fits within the Nishnawbe Aski Nation's food strategy, Kromm said Poplar Hill, Mishkeegogamang, Neskantaga and Eabametoong could also soon be receiving shipments of emergency food supplies.

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