United Church is very involved in our local community helping vulnerable
populations in need. In addition, we are now focusing a bit further afield to a
Far North Canadian project, First Nations communities of Ontario’s north.
focus on these communities is rooted in something that happened in the spring
2016. Tansley United Church’s Book Club, Tansley Reads, read Up Ghost River, by
Edmund Metatawabin. A survivor of the residential school system Edmund
Metatawabin is former First Nations Chief of Fort Albany on the James Bay coast
in Northern Ontario. In Up Ghost River he details his life in a loving family,
his experience in the residential school system, the importance of native
teachings, the land and much more.
was so moved by his story that we collected funds to purchase and send several
shipments of fresh fruit (extremely expensive to purchase locally in fly-in
northern communities) to early child care centres in First Nations communities
along the James Bay coast and in areas close to the northern Manitoba/Ontario
border through connections of a member of Tansley.
project was to supply snowsuits for these same children as there is often a
shortage. Without warm winter clothing the opportunity to play outside during
cold weather is limited or eliminated. A snowsuit drive was organized and over
50 snowsuits and close to 50 pairs of flannel pajamas were sent.
project is to support Edmund Metatawabin’s Paquatasimik Project. Youth and
elders travel the Albany River so the young people learn about the
history of their ancestors. The Albany River is a beautiful river, clean and
winding all the way up from Fort Albany to Lake St. Joseph north of Thunder Bay.
Sadly, many youth don't get a chance to travel this historic highway very
often, if at all. The youth are taken on the land and introduced to the
historic aspects of the environment which can have life-changing effects on
them. They undertake repairing gravesites in cemeteries along the river.
In June 2107 we held a Document
Shredding event to raise funds to support this project. It was a great
success and went a long way to funding this initiative.
Over the Summer $4,000 was sent
to Fort Albany to support projects there. Here is the report back that we
Fort Albany Market
Our markets were started about 10 years ago as an off-shoot
of the Student Nutrition Program that I organize for the students in our
school. We feed all the children breakfast each morning and a snack in the
afternoon. As well, I cook a hot meal for the Elders Meals on Wheels
program twice a week which is delivered to the elder's homes by the Home
Care staff from the local Health Services and First Nations office. With
these many on-going food programs already operating in the community and
the community members just not able to afford to buy healthy foods for their
families, we decided to organize produce markets to help with the food
insecurity in the community.
As it is now, every two weeks we order about 3,000 lbs of
fresh fruits & vegetables to sell. We have, over the 10 years, learned the
most efficient, inexpensive way to get that much food here. In the past, we
ordered food from Toronto which was then trucked to Cochrane, trained to
Moosonee and flown by small plane to Fort Albany. Volunteers then pick up
the food by truck and deliver it to the school gym. The food is weighed,
priced and organized on tables for community people to shop. The demand for
this fresh food is so great that the Market is usually only open for a few
minutes and most food is gone. People line up outside waiting for it to open
so they can be assured of getting what they want. Any food left at the end
of the market is stored in refrigerators in the school and people come in
anytime and shop. I work at the school all day so this is possible.
Over time, we have bought from different grocers but now
order from a wholesaler in Quebec who trucks it to the train for us. Just
this summer we began partnering with him and an airlines to provide us
a more competitive price for transporting the food. As well, we are able to
access the government subsidy, Nutrition North Canada, which gives us .60lb.
on all healthy food. So, on 3,000 lb. that means we receive $1,800.00
toward our transportation costs which almost pays for it all.
We also sell Good Food Boxes at each market, so a family can
pre-order a $50.00 box of 6-7 each of fruits and veggies. Regular fruits
like bananas, apples, oranges, grapes are always in the box but other
seasonal fruits like strawberries, blueberries, peaches, kiws may be
added sometimes. Vegetables include carrots, peppers, tomatoes, onions and
others are added such as broccoli, celery, potatoes or lettuce. One of our
goals has been to introduce unfamiliar foods to the community, so we often
have cut-up pieces of fruit or vegetables available at the markets for
people to taste. We sometimes include cheese, bread or cereal in the food
box if we have ordered it. Usually, we pack 40-50 pre-ordered food boxes
that are then picked up when the market opens.
So the markets are able to supply fresh produce to the
community as a whole but also supplies the daycare, elders program, school
nutrition program and many other events organized in the community such as
after school programs, cultural activities etc.
We are planning other
collaborations in the future so stay tuned.
To learn more:
First Nations Library