Second food bank opens up in townMuslims reach out to community from Midnight Sun Mosque
Northern News Services
Thursday, May 7, 2015
After more than a year of effort, Inuvik's second food bank officially opened May 1.
Mayor Floyd Roland, Abdallah Mohamed of the Inuvik Muslim Association and Muhammad Ali of the Muslim Welfare Centre, help open the Arctic Food Bank May 1 at the Midnight Sun Mosque. - Shawn Giilck/NNSL photo
The members of the Midnight Sun Mosque have been working for months on the food bank, which has been set up in a converted trailer on the same site as their place of worship.
More than a year ago, recognizing the existing Inuvik Food Bank was stretched to its limits trying to cope with the town's needs and had no realistic prospect of expanding, the Muslim association reached out to the Muslim Welfare Centre organization located in Toronto.
The plan then was to open a second, complementary food bank, with plans to also begin offering selections of country foods provided by donations from local harvesters.
The initial estimates said it would require a budget of about $100,000 to open the centre. After representatives of the Muslim Welfare Centre toured the area in April 2014, the organization readily agreed to pitch in, said project manager Abdallah Mohammed and centre
spokesperson Muhammad Ali.
Originally, the members hoped the food bank could open during the winter, but were unable to keep to that schedule.
Maurice Williams, a board member at the mosque who also serves regularly as the imam for services, said "it is indeed a beautiful day that, finally, one year after trying to put everything together, we are able to open and go into operation.
"We are going to try out best to provide the traditional foods in terms of fish and caribou and meats like that," he said.
Such foods are often craved by the indigenous population, particularly elders who have a consistent preference for the foods of their youth.
That's an ambitious plan and the food bank may have to negotiate around some government restrictions to be able to offer it.
Municipal and Community Affairs Minister Robert C. McLeod, one of the MLAs for Inuvik, attended the opening ceremonies and acknowledged the plan to provide traditional foods could run afoul of government regulations.
McLeod said, though, that new harvesting regulations introduced late last year allow for harvesters to donate some of their catches, which will likely provide a way for the centre to operate within the rules.
Along with the hoped-for country foods, the food bank, which has two large freezers, will be bringing in other meat staples such as chicken and beef from Edmonton, Williams said.
Currently, the freezers are empty, but Williams said that won't be the case for long.
That's something the Inuvik Food Bank hasn't been able to offer due primarily to space restrictions.
"I wish we had this much food," Margaret Miller, a member of the Inuvik Food Bank's board of directors said a bit wistfully as she toured the Arctic Food Bank.
"We do the best we can with what we have," Miller said. "We've been working with them since they first approached us. We showed them what we offered our clients and they've been to our board meetings. We're not in competition, we're serving the same people."
The centre also features traditional staples such as rice and canned goods, which it has in ample supply.
"We know that the cost of living in the North is very expensive," Williams said. "And even though many people may have jobs, some, especially those with families, the elderly, those who are disenfranchised from us (have more problems).
"We thought we could make life easier for those people. The food bank is open for everyone who needs help," Williams added.
Arlene Jorgensen, the CEO of the Beaufort-Delta Health and Social Services Authority, called the Arctic Food Bank "a great asset to our community."
"We can always use more organizations that are working to support the community and those that are in need. And I think it's a great thing for people in the community who want to support an organization supplementing the needs in our community."