Inuvik Food Bank is on the move.
During a special meeting July 20, town council voted 4-0, with councillors Kurt Wainman and Alana Mero absent, to enter into an agreement with the essential charity to rent them the John Wayne Kiktorak building on Berger Street for $1 a year.
In exchange, the food bank will take over maintenance and care of the building, which the organization described as a game changer for the five-person team. The arrangement will be reviewed in a year.
“We are very happy with this news,” said food bank co-chair Zoila Castillo. “We now have running water available to us.
“In the 13 years I’ve been involved with the food bank, we have never had that.”
She said having the larger space will allow the operation to make longer and more effective plans for distributing food, as the current building is at full-capacity.
With much of their space devoted to freezers, Castillo said the food bank is at the mercy of the kindness of strangers. Shipments of food arrive nearly spontaneously, depending on what is available to organizations down south, and at times staff need to find spaces for entire seacans of potatoes, ice cream or other bulk items and not enough means to get them to homes. Many times, excess food is donated to the mosque for the Arctic Food Bank, but often sent to Tuktoyaktuk or passed on to the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation for its country foods processing plant.
Moving to a more visible space would also make the effort safer for volunteers, said Castillo. The current space, just behind the John Wayne Kiktorak building, is poorly lit and largely isolated from the street view. Castillo added the location has been broken into repeatedly and some individuals have used the back alley as their personal honey bucket, leaving unpleasant surprises for volunteers.
Volunteers only work in pairs, but even then in the middle of winter they are dealing with pitch black right outside their doorway. Moving within visibility of Mac’s Newstand, Originals and East Three School would go a long way to allow for peace of mind.
A third benefit to the “new” building is running water. Castillo said volunteers currently haul buckets of water to the food bank to clean, so having a faucet to wash after a night of distributing food would be be a significant time and energy saver.
“We are very grateful to the town and community for their ongoing support for the food bank, and their understanding of our challenges,” she said. “We always welcome potential volunteers to message our Facebook group, Inuvik Food Bank.”
Councillors had expressed concern about the high costs to heat the building, which was significant when the location was in use by the Inuvik Warming Shelter. However, Castillo noted the food bank’s use of the building would be markedly different from the previous tenants, who needed to keep the site in full service on a 24-hour basis. In comparison, the food bank plans to use just enough heat to keep items from freezing and would only be in the building for a few hours each month.
Having the larger space will allow the charity to focus on its next steps, said Castillo.
“We will have to look for more funding sources, maybe a longer-term income source,” she said. “We will also look at reaching out to other partnerships in town and start to rebuild our volunteer base.”
Castillo said the food bank is now preparing to operate out of the new space and would announce an August distribution day once they have their food shipment arranged.