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Arctic Bay food bank in jeopardy
SUBHEAD: 'We've just given up,' says committee chairwoman after need exceeds supply

Myles Dolphin
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 27, 2013

Martha Allurut has run out of options and is desperate for assistance.

The chairwoman of the Ajagutaq Food Bank committee in Arctic Bay said the community-based organization is all but dead, a result of insufficient donations and too many requests for food.

NNSL photo/graphic

A 1.1 kg boneless pork shoulder roast that sold for $27.19 in Arctic Bay could be purchased for $8.86 from a southern supplier. Including the Nutrition North subsidy, the freight cost to get the roast to Arctic Bay would be $2.35. Quttiktuq MLA Ronald Elliott raised the issue in the legislative assembly last week during his member's statement. - photo courtesy of Ronald Elliott

"We need lots of help from other communities and the Arctic Bay hamlet," she said.

"We have nothing, absolutely nothing. We stopped going on the radio to ask for help because we've just given up."

Allurut sounded deflated when she spoke about efforts made to find financial help and keep the food bank going.

She said there was a hint of success last year, when the organization received frozen fish and seal meat from elders and hunters in the community.

These days, however, the coffers are empty and so are the food reserves.

Allurut called it a "sad story.

"We have people asking us for food all the time," she said.

"We try to save money but as soon as we have a few bucks, people find out and come see us. It doesn't go very far, it's really hard to raise any money."

Pleas for help have been made through the Internet or the local radio station in the past. Allurut keeps asking the Northern store for donations, despite hitting the same wall every time.

"They tell me they need confirmation from (the headquarters) in Winnipeg," she said.

For the time being, Allurut and other committee members distribute whatever food they have from their homes, on a monthly rotational basis.

Food in Arctic Bay is often several times more expensive than it is in southern Canada, and Quttiktuq MLA Ron Elliott has been vocal about bringing down the cost of living the High Arctic.

Elliott has been critical of the Nutrition North Canada program, which replaced the Food Mail Program in 2001. The program provides isolated Northern communities with better access to nutritional foods.

"The bottom line is that the Nutrition North Canada program is not benefiting the people it was intended to assist and we are paying way too much for our basic needs," he said in his member's statement at the legislative assembly on May 8.

Elliott backed his claim up by submitting photographic evidence of high food prices in Arctic Bay. He tabled a picture of a pork shoulder roast from the Northern store, selling for $27.19.

He said he would be able to purchase the same roast for less than $9 from a southern supplier.

"The freight cost, including surcharges and the Nutrition North Canada subsidy would be $2.35 landed in Arctic Bay," he added.

"That means the Northern retailer is putting a markup of over $15.98 because they would be able to purchase the product at a wholesale rate and would have a preferred freight rate."

Residents of Arctic Bay protested against the high cost of food in June 2012, joining people from Iqaluit, Grise Fiord, Pond Inlet and Iglulik.

Elliott and South Baffin MLA Fred Schell recently put forward a motion for Canada's auditor general to conduct an audit of the Nutrition North program.

Allurut said she hasn't spoken to Elliott yet about the food bank's dire situation but said she plans on speaking to him when she returns from a camping trip in a few weeks.

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