Major damage forces Iqaluit community kitchen to temporarily close its doors

People seeking a hot meal were turned away from an Iqaluit food kitchen this week after the centre suffered major damage.

“In less than 24 hours it seems that our oil tank ran dry, and as a result our furnace failed, and the building froze solid in less than 24 hours,” said Rachel Blais, executive director of the Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre.

“It was about -50 C – even a little bit colder over the [last] weekend. Pretty much every single pipe in the building burst.”

Blais said the not-for-profit organization is aware of the impact its temporary closure is having. Centre staff are used to dishing out up to 500 lunch meals per day, she added.

“We were able to do some programming this week, we were able to distribute emergency grocery hampers on Wednesday,” said Blais. “We did our produce food box distribution [Thursday], and we are doing another food hamper distribution [Friday].

“None of that would have been possible if the local church next to us – St. Judes [Cathedral] – didn’t give us access to bathrooms for our staff while we didn’t have running water.”

Blais said the property insurer has been contacted and she’s hopeful the doors can reopen as soon as next week, although the repair costs are unknown at this time.

With some of the lowest annual incomes and highest prices for groceries, nearly 70 per cent of Inuit homes in Nunavut struggle with food insecurity.

Blais said, so far, it has been charities trying to feed the hungry.

“I hope that what happens is government, community members and organizations really start to recognize when something as simple as a furnace failure means that 500 people in a community of 8,000 don’t have access to food,” she said.

“The issue isn’t that the furnance failed, the issue is that so many people in the community have inadequate supports to access something as basic as food.”

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