Thunder Bay, Ont. — Thunder Bay’s Regional Food Distribution Association (RFDA) is one of 86 community groups across Canada to receive part of $1.5 million in funding from the Farm Credit Canada AgriSpirit Fund in support of rural capital projects.
The RFDA received $25,000 to purchase two refrigerated containers for Weaganow First Nation to increase the capacity to receive food deliveries for the community.
And Volker Kromm, executive director of the food distribution group, couldn’t be happier.
“Without having capacity at the terminal end of our distribution ranges prevents us from being able to supply regular, ongoing support of nutritious foods,” Kromm said. “Having refrigeration and freezers at every destination point is critical to being able to end food insecurity.”
He added that they can do all they can in the municipalities, but without the support and capacity, the other distribution end means they’re only going halfway. The RFDA supports 12 northern communities and faces doubling numbers through seasonal emergencies and the Christmas holidays.
Kromm says they work with communities that are connected to the electrical grid because of the service areas and the capacity needed. A new capacity pilot project is also underway.
“We’re looking at communities like Ignace, Pickle Lake and Red Lake as the first communities for staging a capacity program and as (communities) get hooked up to the grid, that it makes it logical,” he said. “The First Nations are really behind this and they’re looking at creating that capacity as well. So there is investment from their side as well as companies like Wasaya who are also finding how important it is to have that capacity.”
Kromm says Wasaya is talking about investing within their ownership communities so that they all have some kind of capacity for food.
He said setting up in Ignace serves as the RFDA’s pilot project before “rolling it out” one by one as they partner with the First Nation communities or the mining and energy companies.
“Ignace is an important one because if you imagine places like Pickle Lake, they aren’t ready for this yet,” Kromm said. “So what we’re doing is trying to capture the surplus food that’s moving across Canada and when we get a truckload of frozen food or vegetables, we’ll be able to start locating them at these little satellite hubs.
The Ignace food bank will be the pilot and test site to work out the design and engineering requirements. Pickle Lake – Mishkeegogamang First Nation is subject to partnership and community support. Red Lake is included and Weagamow (Round Lake / North Caribou) which is at the very end of the Northern Road in Ontario, is subject to partnership with the community and Newmont Musselwhite. There is also a move on to remote communities that are grid-ready, which Kromm suspects will have their own plans soon.