The senior administrative officer for the hamlet of Pangnirtung, Nunavut says she was unaware that the Northern Store was discarding food at the dump because of a power outage.
Nancy Anilniliak said that the hamlet was not aware of the food dumping until it was too late.
“The community is not too happy about it overall. There was no opportunity for the hamlet to provide some advice to North West Company. There’s the youth centre that runs a soup kitchen and we would have talked to them about where that’s located,” Anilniliak said.
She said that the hamlet is used to working with organizations to help community members offset the cost of nutritious food.
“It’s very costly here, that’s a fact. The community works together with organizations like hunters and trappers who provide country food to subsidize some food for residents,” she said.
Pangnirtung, located northeast of Iqaluit on the south end of Baffin Island, is a place where people go to bed hungry because they cannot afford to eat.
On October 24, high winds caused one of two grocery stores in the community to lose power overnight.
David Kilabik says he was “pissed off,” when he found a large quantity of food discarded at the dump.
“There were some dairy products, milk, yogurt, ice cream, some boxes with meat packs, some microwavable stuff, sandwiches and such. The hungry man dinners, pizza pockets, no huge items but there is stuff there that could have fed a lot of people,” Kilabik said.
It is common practice for Northern Store to sell goods at discount when expired or thawed.
In this case, Kilabik said some of the items he found were not spoiled and some even remained frozen.
“The food could have been given out instead of having people go to the dump to take what they can. It makes me so mad, I’d use the word inhumane, seeing people go through that to get food,” he said.
Northmart is owned by The North West Company, a corporate giant with stores in 21 of the 25 Nunavut communities.
Alex Yeo, president of Canadian retail for The North West Company, said the manager of the store in Pangnirtung erred on the side of caution in his decision to discard products.
“Because the outage was at night, by the time the store manager came in some of the products, not all were thawed so he wanted to be safe,” Yeo said.
Kilabik told APTN News that food in packages had appeared to have been damaged.
Yeo responded to that saying no products were intentionally damaged.
“I will say there was a miss on our part and I do apologize on that. We should have contacted the local SAO to see if there was anything else we could have done.
“That’s one of the gaps that I will be closing with all of our stores,” Yeo said.
At the time of the interview North West Company had not contacted the SAO.
It wasn’t long before residents went to salvage what they could.
The North West Company’s donation policy is internal, and the practice of discarding food at community landfills has sparked much controversy.
In 2014, APTN Investigates explored the broken promises of Nutrition North Canada to deliver affordable, nutritious food via retailer subsidies in communities like Rankin Inlet, NU.
In Nunavut, legislation is in place that allows grocers to donate food without fear of legal action if someone gets sick.
“A person who donates food, or who distributes donated food, to another person is not liable for damages resulting from disease, injury, death or other harm caused by the consumption of the food, unless the food was adulterated, rotten or otherwise unfit for human consumption,” says the law in part.
While Northwest Company could not comment on the retail value of food discarded, Kilabik claimed it was the largest volume of food he had ever seen at the dump.