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Arctic Food Bank in Iqaluit reaches fifth year in operation

Food bank serves between 80 to 120 people every two weeks
Iqaluit’s Arctic Food Bank, located at the Iqaluit mosque has reached its fifth year in operation since first opening in 2018. Trevor Wright/NNSL photo

Iqaluit’s Arctic Food Bank is commemorating five years, since first distributing food all the way back in 2018.

The Arctic Food Banks in Iqaluit and Inuvik are a national non-profit initiative from Muslim Welfare Canada, to help address food insecurity in jurisdictions where food prices are four times higher than the national average.

“When we started, only 40 families came to get their food,” said Muhammad Wani, the vice-president of the Islamic Society of Nunavut, and person-in-charge for Iqaluit’s Arctic Food Bank, who noted it was a little slow at first.

Advertising at NorthMart and Arctic Ventures as well as through social media and local media helped get word of mouth for the food bank’s Road to Nowhere location, located in the community’s mosque.

The number of people at food distribution days soon swelled from 40 to 60, now the food bank serves between 80 to 120 families on a given distribution day, which is every second Saturday 11 a.m. to noon.

Originally, only non-perishables were being given out, but as the food bank got more established workers and volunteers have been working to expand the types of food available to Iqalummiut.

“At that time (the start) we were only giving out the non-perishables, oil, lentils, flour, sugar,” said Wani. “After that we started giving country food, we’ve been giving out Arctic Char, salmon and many times halal frozen chicken. We also added fresh produce as well as milk and dairy products.”

They now make sure there’s at least one dairy product and two fresh veggies or fruits for food bank distribution days.

On March 4, Project Ramadan, an annual food basket initiative from Muslim Welfare Canada, was launched for the first time from the Iqaluit mosque.

Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok and visiting Toronto Senator Salma Ataullahjan as well as Iqaluit-Tasilik MLA George Hickes commemorated the occasion at the Iqaluit Mosque by taking part in food distribution.

“Nobody should go to sleep without food, there should be food on their table,” said Wani.

He also praised the efforts of volunteers through the last five years. Whether it’s pushing on in bad weather or adapting to a global pandemic, despite issues and circumstances volunteers still moved forward.

“Our motto, our goal, our aim is service to humanity is service to Allah (god), that is the thing that keeps everybody warm and energetic,” said Wani.

“Our volunteers didn’t step back, they always came forward to help us.”

People who are interested in helping out can donate through either Muslim Welfare Canada or the Arctic Food Bank.

“If you need food please come up and don’t feel ashamed,” said Wani, encouraging people to call them if they ever need food, even if it’s not on a distribution day.