The coronavirus is still in the North and so is hunger, highlighting the food security issues that have long dogged many people in Rankin Inlet.
And now, in a worrying sign of the times, a spokesperson for the Ikurraq Food Bank says that demand has increased significantly since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Over the last year, the food bank in Rankin Inlet has been providing food to about 50 to 65 families (of about four individuals) each week, said spokesperson David Fredlund. Before the pandemic struck, Ikurraq had an average weekly distribution of food to 30 to 45 families.
“With our regular clients, it was above and beyond our usual things that we would do,” he said.
The food bank has also stepped up the number of special distribution events, like the one on March 6, when the food bank teamed up with the hamlet to donate thousands of pounds of food, some of which were leftovers from a hefty donation of chicken from Foodbanks Canada just before Christmas.
“We did a distribution in the first week of December, so we had enough to be able to do it again,” said Fredlund. “I think we gave out about 17,000 pounds of fish, chicken and caribou meat. There were about six or seven hundred boxes of chicken, five pallets of caribou and four of Arctic char.”
The longtime volunteer — who first got involved in the food bank because his mother Mary Fredlund “was looking for help with the paperwork end of things — said there was “a fairly good crowd,” at the event.
About 350 to 500 families picked up boxes of food, said Fredlund, thanks to a “good team of volunteers that we definitely rely on a lot,” who helped sort, pack and distribute meals to those in need.
Ikurraq has received additional funding from the federal and territorial governments this year, said Fredland, which has allowed the organization to distribute more food.
“We didn't have to spend as much fundraising because of that — penny sales and bingos and those kinds of events — of course we couldn't do those kinds of events anyway,” he said.
In the next five weeks Ikurraq will be teaming up with the popular Slapshot Canteen located in the Rankin Inlet arena to distribute more than 400 pizzas to families in need, said Fredlund.
“We're not exactly sure how we're going to be distributing them quite yet but we're making things happen,” he said.
As the number of cases starts to trend down and the territory begins relaxing Covid-19 restrictions, Fredlund worries heightened food security concerns could last well into the future.
“It's a little bit of a concern that we're having that the demand might not have gone down because there are obviously still active Covid cases in the region,” he said. “We're hoping that we can keep on plugging along.”
-by Ezra Black