Hundreds of hungry Yukoners who have struggled without a food bank for years may finally get a chance to start filling their plates.
In April, Whitehorse’s first full-service food bank is scheduled to open its doors at the Legion Hall on Alexander Street.
“A society is only as strong as it treats its least-fortunate citizens,” said Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell, attending a Food Bank Society of Whitehorse news conference on Thursday.
“It’s up to us to make sure no one falls through the cracks.”
Along with NDP MLA Steve Cardiff and Mayor Bev Buckway, Mitchell became a 500-club member, donating $10 a month for a year.
Premier Dennis Fentie one-upped them, donating $500 to the food bank.
When Fentie handed over the cheque, food bank vice-president Dave Stockdale jokingly asked about a possible $75,000 donation.
He was referring to the $75,000 cheque Fentie’s government conjured for the Yukon Hospital Foundation’s Festival of Trees fundraiser last month after a theft cleaned out many of the donations, including a flat-screen TV and a snowmobile.
All the goods were recovered.
A government donation to the food bank “is not something we won’t consider,” said Fentie, when asked about the Festival of Trees’ $75,000 cheque.
“But I’m here as a Yukoner to contribute to society.
“And I’m challenging other Yukoners to step up and strengthen our social fabric.”
A group of young students from Christ the King Elementary also contributed to the food bank, raising $3,000 through a read-a-thon.
“Kids often think things like this are adults’ business,” said food bank chair Christiane Boisjoly.
“They think, ‘What can we do to change the world, we’re only kids?’
“We’ll look what you’ve done — a lot of adults and local businesses haven’t done that.”
However, some local businesses have given money and in-kind donations.
FCS Architects and Engineers, a Green Apple contributor, has donated $5,000 a year for the next five years, as well as donating its services to help design the new food bank space at the Legion.
Yukon Energy Corp donated $10,000 and a van, while teens at FH Collins went on a 30-hour hunger strike to raise $1,000.
To join the 500 club, donors can fill out a form and put it on their Visa, said Stockdale.
“And once it’s on your Visa it’s hard to take off,” he added with a laugh.
“Hopefully it stays on there for years and years.”
The plan is to get 500 people donating $10 a month to raise a stable sum of $60,000 yearly.
Eventually the board hopes it can take a backseat and let the community take on this project, said Boisjoly.
“We need to work together towards a day when we won’t need a food bank,” said Cardiff.
“This reminds us of how little progress we’ve made in Canada towards our goal of eliminating poverty.”
A recent national survey has reported that 21 per cent of northerners lack food. And of those, 37 per cent are children.
The new food bank will not just offer non-perishables. It plans to get produce and dairy donations, as well as some wild fish and game.
“We plan to gather 52 organizations, and each one will be assigned one week of the year to do an internal food drive,” said Boisjoly.
There will also be two to three community-wide food drives annually and the organization hopes to be come a member of Food Banks Canada, which receives corporate food donations.
Canadian Tire may be partnering to transport this food north, said Boisjoly.
The food bank will also be developing relationships with the existing emergency food programs in town, at Maryhouse and the Salvation Army shelter.
Its goal is to act as a clearinghouse of sorts, receiving food donations and redistributing them.
Using a non-intrusive registering system, food bank users will be able to get a three-day food supply once a month.
The food bank currently needs cash donations, office equipment, shelving, a commercial cooler/freezer and sorting equipment, including tables, tubs and bins.
It also needs carpenters and electricians to donate time, building supplies, an overhead door donated and installed and gardeners to grow a row in the spring for the food bank.
The food bank has received charitable status through Revenue Canada, which allows all donors to receive taxable donation receipts.
For more information go to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 393-BANK (2265).
Contact Genesee Keevil at