Facing increased demand amidst tough economic times, Inuvik's food bank has taken the drastic step of charging its clients for food.
Starting on Sunday, May 7, clients at the Inuvik Food Bank will have to pay a user fee of $10 per flat of food. Each flat includes $40 worth of ground beef, rolled oats or biscuit mix, six potatoes, six eggs, and chicken noodle soup mix.
One flat of food is available for every two people in the household, with a limit of four flats per household.
"We are hoping that this works, that people will feel more responsible and it's not just handouts," says Margaret Miller, the treasurer of the Inuvik Food Bank. "They are contributing to their own food source."
The project is a trial, which will run through July. Although it may be a shock to people who use the food bank to have to pay a fee, Miller says the practice is "fairly common down south," and says what differentiates Inuvik's food bank from many others is that it buys most of the food it distributes, where others subsist primarily on donations from grocery stores.
"Our donations aren't as forthcoming, but all other groups in town are feeling the same problem," says Miller. "We are a transient area and people come and go."
Food bank serves 10% of town's population
Clients at the food bank will still be entitled to four "freebies" from the bank's "freebies shelf," which is food that has been donated by individuals.
In addition to the new fee, clients will also be asked to fill out a new application form before accessing the service.
"We average about 250 to 300 people a month, which is roughly 10 per cent of Inuvik's population," said Miller. "We have new applicants practically every week."
The changes come after a previous rule change in October, where diminishing resources and increased demand forced the food bank to limit clients to one pickup per month, instead of every second week.
As the current changes are implemented, the food bank will only be opened twice a month, on Sundays. Previously, it was open every Wednesday.