“This is a place for everybody. It’s a place for people to connect across social and cultural divides and hang out with people they might not otherwise hang out with.”
A place where people can contribute
As a volunteer at the Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre, Jonah wears many hats. While he’s often found tackling the most strenuous tasks -- scrubbing pots at the kitchen sink, hauling bags of flour from the pantry -- he loves to break up the work with a good joke or famous quote.
When Jonah first came to the Qajuqturvik CFC in 2019, he was unemployed. Looking to find work in the food service sector, he signed up for the centre’s pre-employment culinary skills training program. Over 12 weeks, he immersed himself in all aspects of QCFC’s food production, from cleaning and sanitizing the space, to preparing a meal for 200 people. He came out of the program with an offer for a full-time job.
Now, Jonah flies out to work at an iron mine in the high Arctic for two weeks each month. When he’s back in Iqaluit, he spends most of his free time at the QCFC, helping out with the daily community lunches.
A community centre built around good food
You don’t have to be an aspiring chef in the culinary skills training program to get cooking at the Qajuqturvik CFC. The centre’s after-school program for kids and weekly cooking clubs bring people together in the kitchen to learn new skills, try out recipes, and most importantly, connect with others. And out in the dining room, people gather every weekday for a lunchtime meal where, as much as possible, the menu includes traditional country foods like Arctic char, narwhal or seal.
An important partnership
The Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre is the first of its kind in Canada’s Arctic region. The CFC is located in Iqaluit, the capital city of Nunavut, which is the largest populated territory of the Inuit Nunangat.
The majority of Iqalummiut are of Inuit descent, a group that faces much higher rates of food insecurity, diet-related illness, and mental health issues than the general population. Nunavut has the highest prevalence of food insecurity in Canada, with 57 percent of households in the territory being food-insecure and nearly half of those experiencing severe food insecurity.
First established in the 1990s as a soup kitchen, the Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre has been responsive to the community’s changing needs over time, adapting its approach to food. With significant funding from Makigiaqta Inuit Training Corporation and Indigenous Services Canada, and additional support from the Government of Nunavut, the City of Iqaluit, CIBC and the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Community Food Centre transformed from soup kitchen to culinary skills training facility to the place it is today -- a vibrant, welcoming place for the community to gather over good food.
The partnership with Community Food Centres Canada provides funding for core operations and support to the CFC to build up programming and further increase community members' access to food, resources, and supports.