The Qayuqtuvik Society: From Soup Kitchen to Food Centre


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In a territory where nearly 70% of Inuit households have reported being food insecure, accessing enough food is a challenge for many Iqalummiut. Fortunately, there are many community-based food programs, such as The Qayuqtuvik Society, that are trying to improve food security in Iqaluit.

What The Qayuqtuvik Society Currently Does

The Qayuqtuvik Society is dedicated to ensuring that everyone in Iqaluit who needs a hot meal can have one, every day of the year. This is our first response to food insecurity in our city and in our territory.

Ed McKenna, Board Member

The Qayuqtuvik Society is a legally registered, non-denominational, non-profit organization based in Iqaluit. It currently offers a free hot meal program to Iqalummiut, serving anywhere from 40 to 100 people each day. Thanks to its dedicated board members and volunteers, The Qayuqtuvik Society is able to offer this service 365 days a year. Yepp – they even serve Christmas dinner.

The Qayuqtuvik Society has recently taken great strides in terms of expanding and enhancing its programming. For many years, they have offered a weekday emergency meal program that includes lunches of soup and sandwiches. But for the past two years, The Qayuqtuvik Society has supplemented its lunchtime service by offering three-course dinners on weekends as well. They regularly tweet photos of the food, and it looks delicious (trust their #mamaqtuq hashtag).

This is Pudloo, a devoted volunteer who prepares local Arctic char filets, bakes homemade dinner rolls, and much more. Photo by Sarah Brandvold.

This is Pudloo, a devoted volunteer who prepares local Arctic char filets, bakes homemade dinner rolls, and much more. Photo by Sarah Brandvold.

The Qayuqtuvik Society also regularly partners with other community-based organizations in Iqaluit. They rent space in their facility to both the Niqinik Nuatsivik Nunavut Food Bank and Piviniit Thrift Shop. Together with the Inclusion Café, they hosted a successful community dinner that took place during Toonik Tyme. They also collaborated with the Nanook School cooking program, which facilitated skills building amongst (adorable) young chefs who were keen on giving back to their community.

Students from Nanook Elementary School cooking program busy preparing almost 700 (!!) meatballs to serve for dinner. Photo by Sarah Brandvold.

Students from Nanook Elementary School cooking program busy preparing almost 700 (!!) meatballs to serve for dinner. Photo by Sarah Brandvold.

What The Qayuqtuvik Society Wants to Do

Our board of directors increasingly has come to recognize the need to move beyond just serving food and start addressing the reasons for why people come to the soup kitchen in the first place. We would like to start addressing the root causes of food insecurity.

Sarah Brandvold, Board Member

The Qayuqtuvik Society recognizes the limitation of its current charity model, which typically focuses on providing immediate, practical assistance to those in need. Instead, they’re hoping to turn toward the social justice model, which focuses on meeting people’s basic needs while also addressing the larger issues that underlie hunger and poverty.

This transition from a soup kitchen to a community food centre will require a significant shift, both in philosophy and in capacity. Sarah Brandvold, a board member who has been laying the groundwork for this shift, explained that, "Although we remain committed to providing emergency food access to vulnerable community members, we also recognize the need for a more holistic, sustainable, and community-driven response to the problem of food insecurity."

Pudloo's baking, fresh out of the oven. Photo by Sarah Brandvold.

Pudloo's baking, fresh out of the oven. Photo by Sarah Brandvold.

Keeping in line with the community food centre model, The Qayuqtuvik Society has identified five new programs that it would like to offer in addition its daily meal programs:

  1. Cooking Classes / Community Kitchens
  2. After-School Program for Youth
  3. Social Justice Speaker Series / Coffeehouse
  4. Land-Based Programs (in partnership with Tukisigiarvik Society)
  5. Expansion of Inclusion Café (in partnership with Nunavummi Disabilities Makinnasuaqtiit Society)
Inclusion Café's volunteers and staff busily prepare a healthy salad for dinner. Photo by Sarah Brandvold.

Inclusion Café's volunteers and staff busily prepare a healthy salad for dinner. Photo by Sarah Brandvold.

How The Qayuqtuvik Society Plans to Do It

It is obvious to us that much more can be made of such a wonderful space, and we are keenly aware that free meals are not a solution in themselves. We are in the process of arranging cooking classes, community kitchens, after-school programs, public speaking events; we seek to build stronger ties with other organizations like Tukisigiarvik, Niqinik, Piviniit, etc.

Wade Thorhaug, Board Member

Over the past year, The Qayuqtuvik Society has promoted its vision for a community food centre to the City of Iqaluit, the Nunavut Food Security Coalition, its various sponsors, and many others through social media. It has also brought together organizations from across the city, including Iqaluit Community Greenhouse Society, Niqinik Nuatsivik Nunavut Food Bank, Nunavummi Disabilities Makinnasuaqtiit Society, Piviniit Thrift Shop, Agvvik Society, Uqutaaq Society, and Tukisigiarvik Society, to discuss new ways of working together.

The Qayuqtuvik Society has outlined several short term goals, the first of which is rebranding the "Iqaluit Soup Kitchen" as the "Iqaluit Food Centre." They also want to improve existing programs, introduce the aforementioned new programs, and work more closely with other community groups.

There are many things working in The Qayuqtuvik Society's favour. They have access to a large, well-equipped, centrally-located facility. They have widespread community support, as evidenced by its large volunteer base and strong board of directors. And perhaps most importantly of all, they have a collective vision and will to act.

The Qayuqtuvik Society's 90-person dining room. Photo by Sarah Brandvold.

The Qayuqtuvik Society's 90-person dining room. Photo by Sarah Brandvold.

How You Can Get Involved

If you're interested in increasing access to healthy food, reducing social isolation, building community cohesion, and contributing to systemic change, here's how you can get involved:

Become a Volunteer
At the moment, the operation of The Qayuqtuvik Society relies solely on volunteers (although they're currently looking to hire a kitchen coordinator). And although their volunteer-base over the past year has included over 135 people, there is always a need for passionate and dedicated people. So if you're a keen vegetable chopper, sandwich maker, food server, dish washer, book keeper, or vision implementer, please get in touch with The Qayuqtuvik Society by sending an email to qayuqtuvik@gmail.com.

Volunteer extraordinaire, Arielle, baking a batch of cookies for dessert. Photo by Sarah Brandvold.

Volunteer extraordinaire, Arielle, baking a batch of cookies for dessert. Photo by Sarah Brandvold.

Donate What You Can
Like many community-based food relief programs, The Qayuqtuvik largely relies on corporate and general donations. If you'd like to financially support the work of The Qayuqtuvik Society, you can do so through its GoFundMe page. If you'd like to donate food, you can do so confidently thanks to the Government of Nunavut’s Donation of Food Act, which encourages the food donations to the territory’s most vulnerable residents while protecting those who make donations. So whether it's leftover catering or surplus sealift, just stop by Building #157 (beside the igloo church) to drop it off.

Iqaluit-grown potatoes generously donated by the Iqaluit Community Greenhouse Society. Photo by Sarah Brandvold.

Iqaluit-grown potatoes generously donated by the Iqaluit Community Greenhouse Society. Photo by Sarah Brandvold.

The Qayuqtuvik Society in Action

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is the value of this video? Just watch The Qayuqtuvik Society in action.

Thank you to Mark Aspland of Nunavut Images for sharing his video (and if you like what you see, be sure to learn more about his fundraising efforts in support of the Kamatsiaqtut Helpline).

Another huge thank you to board members Sarah Brandvold, Ed McKenna, and Wade Thorhaug for sharing their information, knowledge, and photos. 

To support and learn more about The Qayuqtuvik Society, make sure to follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook.