Chicken may be a popular item on northerners’ holiday menus this year. Thousands of pounds of free frozen chicken legs are being distributed to communities across the NWT.
Angela Griffin, principal of Deh Gáh School in Fort Providence, told Cabin Radio: “It’s just shocking to me that they’re giving this food to these communities. It’s wonderful.”
The chicken legs arrive courtesy of the Surplus Food Rescue Program, a federal initiative that takes food products without a market due to the Covid-19 pandemic and redistributes them where there’s a need, free of charge.
With help from Food Banks Canada, communities throughout the country are receiving a variety of protein-rich foods through the program, including fish, veal, bison, beef, and eggs.
The NWT has scored 26 pallets of chicken, with 40 cases of chicken legs per pallet.
That delivery was arranged thanks to the hard work of community members in Fort Providence.
Griffin said it started when she received an email from Food Banks Canada asking if the hamlet was interested in free frozen fish.
“I almost didn’t answer the email because I thought, ‘Yeah right, this sounds too good to be true,’” she said.
Despite her initial skepticism, Griffin responded with enthusiasm and offered up freezer space in the school for storage.
The project grew from there.
“They kept saying if you can take more, we can give more,” Griffin said. “And there’s always need in the community, especially for nutritious food, a protein-based diet, that sort of thing. I didn’t want to turn any food down.”
Eventually, the delivery turned from 13 pallets of frozen fish to 26 pallets of frozen chicken – enough to fill a transport truck.
Griffin conscripted former Deh Gáh School principal Lois Philipp and Linda Kroft, the school librarian, to help spread the word and devise a plan for distribution.
Assisted local residents, the women now plan to send the food to 13 NWT communities: Jean Marie River, Fort Simpson, Wrigley, Fort Liard, Fort Resolution, Ndilo, Dettah, Sambaa K’e, Fort Providence, Kakisa, the Kátł’odeeche First Nation, Délı̨nę, and Whatì.
The shipment arrived in Hay River on Wednesday. A frozen fish delivery will follow in the new year.
Northern food security
“I was and still am beyond belief that this gift is coming here,” said Kroft. “I just know this gift is going to be put to good use.”
At Food Banks Canada, Tania Little said the group felt “very, very honoured to be able to support great work at the community level, and to be able to get this food to communities that would otherwise not happen.”
“A lot of Canadians don’t understand how complex it is to get food moving where there’s different infrastructure available,” Little said.
“To understand that you might need to take a train, an automobile, a plane, a snowmobile to move food – that’s really hard for people to grasp.
“And yet that’s the everyday in rural, remote, and Indigenous communities. Really extensive planning has to happen to be able to make food move into those communities.”
“Sometimes, the stores don’t have what people need or what they want,” Kroft said. “Sometimes, it’s over their price range.”
Climate change has created new challenges for community members who live on traditional diets, Griffin added, as it affects animal migration patterns.
While donations don’t necessarily solve the territory’s food security issues, the women said, they at least ensure people will have food this holiday season.
“It’s a nice, warm feeling,” said Kroft.
Correction: December 18, 2020 – 12:11 MT. This article initially stated Nahanni Butte, Enterprise, and Norman Wells would be among communities receiving chicken deliveries. In fact, those communities are receiving separate deliveries from Food Banks Canada. The communities receiving chicken through the initiative being led by Fort Providence residents are now shown in the article, above.