'It's a blessing': Fort Chipewyan to receive food hamper deliveries

Food hampers were delivered to the remote northern Alberta community of Fort Chipewyan for the first time on Saturday.

The Wood Buffalo Food Bank partnered with fellow local charity King's Kids Promotions to begin offering the service.

The food bank gives hampers to all the other communities in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, but hasn't been able to get to Fort Chipewyan until now. 

Dan Edwards, executive director for the Wood Buffalo Food Bank, said they'll be taking the ice road during the winter, and in the summer they'll fly the hampers up. 

"It's been something on our radar for a long time," Edwards said.

Edwards said they have given food hampers to Fort Chipewyan residents before, but folks either had to travel to Fort McMurray to do pick-up themselves, or had to pay for the hampers to be freighted to the community. 

The hampers are packaged to provide food for a family for about one month.

King's Kids Promotions approached the food bank with the idea to strike up a partnership and get hampers up north. They received a $93,000 grant, which will cover the pilot project's first year of operations. 

Edwards said the partnership meant they could get the project up-and-running right away.

"The community reaction has been overwhelming," he said.

In one week, 27 families reached out to Edwards to get a hamper. 

One of those people was elder Alice Rigney. 

She is a pensioner and has a grandson, great-grandson, and granddaughter living in her home. 

Jamie Malbeuf/CBC

"For the food bank to come to our community over the winter road, it's a blessing," said Rigney. "And I know that I'm going to appreciate it very much."

She said there are fewer people out hunting and fishing than in the past, changing the way community members eat. 

"Most of the families … have changed their diets from living off the land to processed foods. And so the rise of diabetes has gone up," she said. "It's really important that we are starting to teach our young to eat properly."

She said having the food bank come up will provide families with the ingredients they need to cook more nutritious food.

Rigney added that the cost of living in Fort Chipewyan is high, especially in the winter when people are paying for extra fuel to heat their homes. 

"This food bank is going to offset a lot of those [costs]."

Rick Kirschner, executive director of King's Kids Promotions, planned to drive the van and trailer full of hampers to Fort Chipewyan Saturday. 

He's worked on the initiative for about eight months. 

Kirschner was part of the team assembling the hampers Friday, and he said it was meaningful to work with young volunteers who helped put them together.

"I had a tear when I was talking to these kids about participating and helping build their community," he said.

The hampers will be handed out once a month from the Athabasca Delta Community School.