Qajuqturvik back from the brink

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The Qajuqturvik Food Centre is no longer the brink of disaster thanks to the work of the outgoing board of directors, two dozen residents attending the organization’s annual general meeting heard May 22.

Wade Thorhaug, outgoing president of the Qajuqturvik Food Centre, gives two dozen Iqalungmiut an overview of the positive changes the organization has seen since September, as a new board is set to take over. The Iqaluit food centre provides an average of 168 meals daily, serving an average of 77 Iqalungmiut.
Michele LeTourneau/NNSL photo

“I would like to highlight the fact that in September of last year we were at one of our lowest points financially and in terms of capacity,” said outgoing president Wade Thorhaug.

“I was actually calling suppliers and asking them not to cash cheques for the time being, until I could get money in the bank. Since then we’ve had a lot of fundraising success and we’re in a much better position.”

Qajuqturvik ended its fiscal year with a sizable surplus of $333,197.63 – but Thorhaug explained that was due to the late infusion of funds earlier this year and discussions were taking place to ensure those funds could be kept and used over time.

Aside from the fundraising efforts – money came from a long list of funders and donors – Qajuqturvik gained financial support from Indigenous Services Canada and the Community Food Centres of Canada (CFCC).

Qajuqturvik now has four full-time staff members, as opposed to the previous team of one full-time and a few part-time. Staff includes a chef, a sous-chef and an executive director funded by the federal government’s Urban Programming for Indigenous Peoples, and a development manager funded through CFCC.

Additionally, Qajuqturvik has gained partner-in-development designation with CFCC. In 2016 it received the designation of a Good Food Organization. CFCC began as a food bank in Toronto and grew its model into a national network. Its vision is to “build health, belonging, and social justice in low-income communities through the power of food.”

More information about that relationship would be forthcoming, Thorhaug said.

“I look forward to seeing how this model will be adapted to our community,” he stated in the annual report he presented to the board. “In terms of food, Nunavut is a world apart from the rest of the country. Our challenges are to both increase the capacity to navigate the country’s most expensive commercial food market while also facilitating access to the enormous bounty of food available on the land. One day, we hope to reach a point where all Iqalummiut can feel confident in their ability to eat affordably and healthily, regardless of their socioeconomic status.”

But for now, Qajuqturvik is most known for its daily meal service. Diners can take an extra meal for themselves or others who need one. In the 2017-2018 fiscal year, the food centre saw its highest number of daily servings last May at 191, with its lowest in December at 124 – the average is 168 per day, with an average of 77 people served per day.

The catering business Inclusion Café managed by the Nunavummi Disabilities Makinnasuaqtiit Society, with its one-on-one training program, stopped operating last August due to a lack of funding. Qajuqturvik took it over as a non-profit catering enterprise, “in an effort to subsidize our operations as well as provide for more regular staffing in the kitchen.”

Thorhaug, Amelia Rajala, Tony Canny, Matt Clark and Leevee Naglingniq form the new board. While the organization is looking good, Thorhaug emphasized that Qajuqturvik will continue to need volunteers.

“We hope to position ourselves as an increasingly influential player among the network of organizations and departments working to improve the lives of Iqalummiut. And despite everything we are still a volunteer organization,” he said in his president’s statement.

“Our ambitions will require more help than ever before. With a professional backbone we hope to make the volunteer experience more satisfying, by drawing on everyone’s unique talents and knowledge.”

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Michele LeTourneau first arrived at NNSL's headquarters in Yellowknife in1998, with a BA honours in Theatre. For four years she documented the arts across the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Following a very short stint as a communications officer with the Government of the Northwest Territories, Michele spent a decade at a community-based environmental monitoring board in the mining industry, where she worked with Inuit, Chipewyan, Tlicho, Yellowknives Dene and Metis elders to help develop traditional knowledge and Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit contributions for monitoring and management plans. She rejoined NNSL and moved to Iqaluit in May 2014 to write for Nunavut News. Michele has received a dozen awards for her work with NNSL.