Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut November 16, 2016 - 8:30 am

Nunavut hamlet hopes to grow its Christmas hamper program

"We really need to reach the people who are willing to donate"

SARAH ROGERS
This is a example of what Christmas hampers have looked like in years past: some food essentials and fixings for a Christmas meal, along with age-appropriate toys for the recipient family. This year, organizers plan to include a gift care for groceries, so families can choose according to their own needs. (PHOTO COURTESY FEEDING NUNAVUT)
This is a example of what Christmas hampers have looked like in years past: some food essentials and fixings for a Christmas meal, along with age-appropriate toys for the recipient family. This year, organizers plan to include a gift care for groceries, so families can choose according to their own needs. (PHOTO COURTESY FEEDING NUNAVUT)

November is typically a busy time of year for Dana Barker-Sheaves, the Igloolik mother and housing manager who helps oversee her community’s Christmas hamper program.

Barker-Sheaves has worked with community groups in Igloolik to fill and distribute the hamper packages for many Christmases, offering Igloolik families some basic food items, goodies and toys for their kids.

But as support and awareness has grown among southern Canadians about food insecurity in Nunavut, the number of hampers has grown too, from a few dozen to hundreds over the last two years.

When the popularity of the Helping of Northern Neighbours movement peaked in 2015, that indirectly translated into $14,000 in donations to Igloolik’s hamper program last Christmas.

Community organizations were able to fill and hand out 250 hampers to families in need.

“Last year, we were so successful, we’re aiming for 300 this year,” said Barker-Sheaves, who is working with the hamlet of Igloolik, its local co-op store and an organization called Feeding Nunavut to fill hampers this year.

“But we’re not in as good of a position as we were,” she said. “The Helping Our Northern Neighbours [support] has floundered, the donor base is done. So we really need to reach the people who are willing to donate.”

So far, the GoFundMe campaign posted online has raised $1,265 of an overall goal of $14,000.

Barker-Sheaves serves as a local representative for Feeding Nunavut, which is now registered as a local non-profit charity. That group has launched a toy drive that’s looking for donors across the country to send unwrapped toys to Igloolik to include in the hampers.

Barker-Sheaves said the toy drive has done well so far; it’s the food portion of the hamper project that could use a boost.

With the money raised, the group will purchase gift certificates for families to purchase their own groceries through Igloolik’s co-op store. The hamlet will also provide two Arctic char and a bannock kit for each hamper.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that Igloolik is one of the largest communities [in the territory], but it’s also one of the poorest and most remote,” Barker-Sheaves said.

“Last week, a lot of people went without eggs, milk and bread because we had no flights.”

Barker-Sheaves said the group will aim for 300 hampers regardless of what support its receives, adjusting the basket size as needed. She hopes to be able to distribute the hampers the week before Christmas.

You can donate to the hamper program here.

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