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Determined women in Hall Beach set up food bank, soup kitchen

Those in need of meals have more resources in Hall Beach due to the steadfast efforts of four women in the community.

Volunteers Katie Brinston Clarke, foreground, and Martha Anguratsiaq load up on supplies for the Hall Beach food bank.
photo courtesy of Kris Richard and Martha Anguratsiaq

But the organizers’ good deeds haven’t come without ongoing hurdles and sacrifice.

Acquiring sufficient funding is a challenge and, because no other location was available in the hamlet, Martha Anguratsiaq – one of the four volunteer founders of the organization – is allowing a room in her home to be used as the food bank.

“It’s really important to me because there’s lots of Inuit hungry people, especially kids,” Anguratsiaq said. “I want to feed more if I can.”

Anguratsiaq and Kris Richard had both been informally handing out food to those in need but they only made acquaintances in 2018.

“We just got together and figured out that there’s a way we can pool our resources and feed more people. I told her we’re going to make a food bank and we’re going to make a soup kitchen – and we’re doing it,” said Richard, adding that residents Katie Brinston Clarke and Danielle Huggins have committed their time and efforts as well.

Ten to 15 food hampers are generally given out weekly. The hampers usually contain items such as country food; frozen beef, chicken or pork; macaroni; Klik; rice; flour; baking powder; sugar; tea and coffee.

Martha Anguratsiaq and Kris Richard are two of four people who have organized a food bank and a soup kitchen in Hall Beach. Richard says she was taken aback by how difficult it is to apply for federal funding to address food security. “We’re doing this because there’s such a need.” photo courtesy of Kris Richard and Martha Anguratsiaq

“Our hampers are there to help people who desperately need something through the week,” Richard said. “The average family is between five to nine people. We try to give them at least a couple days worth of meals so they can figure out what to do next.”

The food bank is accessible Monday through Saturday from 1 p.m.-9 p.m. and Sundays it’s open by appointment only.

In addition, close to 60 people showed up when the first soup kitchen was held at the Elders’ Centre on Jan. 26. Chili and bannock was served.

Hamlet council has granted use of the Elders’ Centre for the soup kitchen long-term, Richard said. The service will be offered every second Sunday.

The response from local people to these initiatives has been heartfelt, said Richard.

“Quite honestly, our community is so grateful for everything. Everyone is very appreciative,” she said. “We just have so many people just, I think, a little relieved that there’s something being offered… to take the load off to know that they can get a meal from us to feed the family.”

Richard also remarked on the longstanding tradition among Hall Beach residents who look out for each other and give away food, especially wild meat. She said she hopes that will continue, but the food bank can be another option during times when there’s not much to go around.

“It is one of the most tight-knit communities that I’ve ever seen. People are always feeding people,” she said. “It’s very common for people to just come over for food and share dinner.”

Baffinland Iron Mines gives an annual donation toward the food bank and the Co-op and Northern stores offer donations and discounts on food, but “funding is very minimal,” according to Richard.

“I actually had to do a lot of research trying to get access to money up here. Nunavut is its own special microcosm of grants, but it’s very tricky if you’re not a registered organization or not-for-profit,” said Richard, who added that for the food bank to become a registered society they’d need at least one more volunteer to meet the minimum requirements.

The group also relies on donated household goods from charitable groups in the south, which they then resell in Hall Beach – population 850 – to raise money to buy more food. It’s not ideal to rely on local people to prop up the food bank, Richard acknowledged, but getting money from the government isn’t easy.

“I was taken aback by how hard it is to apply for federal funding for food security – one of the biggest epidemics in the country. Nunavut is eight times higher than the national average for food insecurity,” she said. “I literally spent the last three months applying for grants and getting one box not ticked and having (the application) come back.”