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Bannock for the hungry

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

Hall Beach (Feb 11/02) - Bill Fraser is on a mission to take the shame out of hunger.

To achieve his goal, the community social worker for Hall Beach has designed palaugaaq (bannock) making kits. Complete with the ingredients to make enough palaugaaq to last for two days, the kits are intended to pull hungry families through lean times.

Fraser sells the kits to those who can afford them and gives them away to those families who need them.

The purchase of one kit -- they retail for $6.50 each -- gives Fraser and co-designer George Magmalik enough money to put together three more kits. "Every time we sell one we can make three more to give away. When it's self-sustaining, it's not charity," said Fraser.

The project was spurred by growth in Nunavut's communities, and the decline of the traditional value of sharing food. While the loss of sharing affects entire communities, single mothers and other people who do not have access to country foods face real hardship.

Fraser said people go on local radio or CB to ask for food to supplement the paltry income they receive via social assistance to buy store-bought food.

"I understand completely that people will do anything to feed their children, including beg. There can't be much dignity in that. That must tear a piece right off their heart and soul," said Fraser.

"Often people blame themselves for being poor or they think they're bad parents. Nobody chooses to be poor."

The idea received favourable responses, Fraser's supervisors in the health department have given their nod of approval and the hamlet's elders and justice council has lent its support.

Fraser said residents who need to fulfil community service hours would staff the project while the local Co-op and the Nunavut Power Corporation have donated bottles and carry-out containers for the kits' ingredients.

Fraser added they would not keep track of who picks up the kits. "It's our goal to take the indignity out of this," he said.