This post is taken from FSN's 2012 Community Report. Check out the report for more stories of community food security and local food from across the province.
The community freezer in Hopedale, Labrador, is getting an upgrade this year that will allow it to serve the community even better. A community freezer is a freezer where country food, wild hunted fare such as moose, caribou, seal, partridge, and geese, is donated and stored until given out to families and individuals who are lacking their own. The current community freezer program in Hopedale has been operating for over 2 years with two chest freezers. A new walk-in freezer is about to be installed that will greatly increase the program’s capacity.
The freezer program improves access to traditional foods that many would not otherwise be able to obtain. Limited free time, high cost of supplies such as bullets and fuel, and access to snowmobiles are all barriers to some families going out on the land to hunt. Wayne Piercy, AngajukKâk for Hopedale, says that many in Hopedale do not have the time or resources to go out and harvest country foods themselves because they either work full-time or can’t afford the equipment.
Hunters donate to the freezer year-round as different animals are harvested. The freezer currently targets elders and low income families, who can access one meal a month from the freezer. More than 30 people in the community of about 550 currently use the freezer. With the new larger walk-in freezer, organizers hope that the whole community will be able to benefit from the program.
Expanding the Community Freezer was a goal of the NiKigijavut Hopedalimi (“Our Food in Hopedale”) Community Food Action Plan, developed through a Community-led Food Assessment supported by FSN in 2009-2010. Fran Boase was the coordinator hired to implement the Action Plan in 2011-2012. Speaking of the need for the freezer, Boase says “Some of the elders who get food from the community freezer don’t have any family who can hunt for them”. Piercy says the concept of the community freezer is based on the Inuit way of sharing. “If one household had some, they would share with whatever household was in need.” The result is that everyone has at least a bit of something. The community freezer program in Hopedale also partners with a similar program in Nain. Last year Hopedale sent porpoise meat to Nain, which sent char in exchange. The Teen Support Group in Hopedale also makes donations to the community freezer. The group does outings twice a year and any fish they catch are donated to the freezer.
Improving access to country foods is important because of the food security challenges faced by communities along the coast of Labrador. “Cost of living is high; fresh food is expensive to buy, and doesn't last long because of the poor quality when it arrives”, says Piercy. The decline in the George River Caribou herd is also adding to difficulties accessing country food.
The new walk-in freezer will come with other tools for use by community members. A meat saw and food wrapper will be available to prepare donations to the freezer, and also for use by community members preparing their own harvest. Anyone who uses the tools will donate a portion of their meat to the freezer. Portions will be packaged for different sized families, so that anyone can come in and get enough for one meal.
Next steps include a new program that will pair experienced hunters with youth and elders. The three generations would go out hunting together, harvest wild meats, see different techniques from past and present, and share stories. This program aims to encourage youth to learn hunting techniques and history, and hear first-hand how the times have changed. Boase says that youth in Hopedale are interested in becoming better hunters and in learning how to cut up and pack meat.
The community freezer program is supported by many partners. Funds to purchase the freezer came from Trent University, while funds to implement the NiKigijavut Hopedalimi Action Plan came from the Public Health Agency of Canada. The Hopedale Inuit Community Government maintains the freezer, the Canadian Rangers in Hopedale are installing the freezer, and the Department of Health and Social Development of Nunatsiavut Government are supporting hunting activities when they can.
For more information contact the Hopedale Inuit Community Government: (709) 933-3864