Iqaluit’s Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre is launching its new Inuliqtait Food Box program, where they hope to provide a consistent source of country food while making it accessible to lower income residents of the city.

In each box there will be three to five different types of country food with five individual portions, each box is valued at $125, Qajuqturvik is offering a pay-what-you-can system to ensure it is accessible by all Iqalummiut.

Those who have the means to pay the full amount will be helping offset the cost of the program while ensuring those who can’t afford to pay for country food can still get it. It works similar to the Food Centre’s produce food box.

“The hope of this is we will be creating a more equitable food system in Iqaluit,” said Rachel Blais, Qajurturvik’s executive director.

Many Nunavummiut get their country food through friends and relatives who hunt or fish for it, however lower-income residents who can’t afford the equipment to go out on the land are often left out. Qajurqturvik hopes to offset that cost through its program while providing a source of income for those who do the hunting.

“That’s a part of the program as well. We want to be paying hunters fairly and we’re paying them respectful prices,” said Blais.

As part of supporting harvesters, Qajuqturvik is partnering up with Project Nunavut, an Iqaluit-based social enterprise whose goal is to improve the viability of a traditional economy. A large amount of country food will be brought in through Project Nunavut’s existing network of hunters.

The Food Centre is also working with individual hunters on its own in Iqaluit and other communities to bring in country food. Any hunters in Iqaluit with a surplus of country food can sell it to Qajuqturvik.

Currently the food is being sourced from individual hunters in Iqaluit, Clyde River, Taloyoak, Rankin Inlet, Naujaat and Pond Inlet with future plans to source food from additional communities.

“We are offering hunters a level of flexibility that isn’t always seen on the commercial side of things in ordering country food. We’ll take what you have, whatever you catch while you go out on a hunt we will purchase at a fair and respectable price,” Blais said.

Prior to Covid-19 hitting the territory, the Food Centre’s initial plans for the Inuliqtait Food Box was to have more of a retail-type setting where Iqalummiut would have been able to select the cuts they want.

“We had a seacan, we had everything packaged in vacuum-sealed bags. We were hoping people would have the freedom to be able select the pieces and cuts they want,” said Blais, “we hope to eventually offer that shopping experience.”

So far, the reception to the Inuliqtait Food Box has been “overwhelming” according to the executive director. Within 24 hours of the program’s announcement on Jan. 20 boxes were sold out.

“There is clearly a demand for country food in this community,” she said.

“It’s community members who are making this program possible by supporting this program and contributing what they can.”

The first distribution of the Inuliqtait Food Box was on Jan. 27. Iqalummiut who purchased this box can expect to see seal, muktuk, musk ox and char.

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