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Food bank pleads for help
Without community support, shelves will be empty within the month: president

Laura Busch
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Inuvik Food Bank has fallen on hard financial times and if things don't turn around, the valued service may be out of food as early as next month.

NNSL photo/graphic

On Monday, Shae-Lynn Rinas, left, and Robyn Rinas display a typical quantity of food given out at the food bank. Currently, a basic bag that a family of two qualifies for every two weeks contains two cans of fruit, two cans of vegetables, two cans of pasta sauce, two cans of beans, two cans of soup, one package of pasta and two packs of Kraft Dinner. - Laura Busch/NNSL photo

"We may have to close, or we may have to cut back significantly," said Bob Mumford, president of the board of directors for the Inuvik Food Bank.

This situation is due to a number of factors, said Mumford. Over the last year, use of the food bank has increased dramatically, to 2,882 bags given out in 2011-12 from 1,631 in 2010-11. Also, the price of food is steadily increasing in Inuvik. Finally, a restructuring in the way bingo dates are assigned to Inuvik associations has caused a dramatic drop in revenue.

"We're now in a situation where we're basically out of money and our next bingo doesn't come up until Sept. 1."

Can't restock shelves

The result is that the food bank simply can't afford to restock its shelves, said Mumford. There is $5,000 left in the coffers and the food bank is currently spending about $8,000 per month on groceries.

"I would be disappointed if they shut down," said a food bank user who asked not to be identified. "Not only for myself, but for other people that need it. It really tides you over sometimes when you're really down to nothing it really helps."

He said he has used the food bank on and off, when work is scarce, to help fill the gap between what his family can afford to buy and the amount of food required. Recently, supplementary items such as milk and cereal previously available at the food bank have not been offered, he said. On top of going to the food bank, the user estimated spending at least $400 to $500 per month in groceries.

The organization is hoping for community support to help keep food on the shelves through the summer. During the upcoming Canada Day parade, food bank volunteers will be collecting non-perishable food items, as well as donations.

Currently, the Inuvik Food Bank purchases nearly all of the food it distributes to those in need, though this has not always been the case.

When the food bank first opened in 2003, about half of the food on the shelves came from donations and half was purchased, said Doug Robertson, one of the founding members of the food bank.

"Over the years, it's been everything from food that's been purchased by the food bank, to food that's been donated, to food that sometimes people have too much of fresh fish or caribou," he said.

The food bank has ran in to hard times in the past, and often closed for periods during those early years. In the recent past, revenue from community bingos and Nevada ticket sales had kept the finances stable and the organization hasn't had to close its doors since the fall of 2009.

"It's disappointing, but it's certainly not the first time," said Robertson. "It goes in cycles and we've had tough times in the past."

A closure now would have an especially negative impact on a community that is going through hard economic times, said Mumford.

The number of bags given out has nearly doubled in the last year and Mumford estimates that means about 660 Inuvik residents benefit from the food bank's services.

"The economic situation means that there just aren't the kind of jobs around now that there were a year ago," said Mumford.

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