How a food bank in Nunavut turned donated P.E.I. potatoes into tuktu poutine 

When life gives you potatoes, make tuktu poutine! 

That’s what the Ikurraq Food Bank in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut did after receiving 22,500 pounds of P.E.I. potatoes distributed by Food Banks Canada between March and May this spring. 

Utilizing its strong food recovery network, the Ikurraq Food Bank secured funding to purchase cheese and gravy, and support a local business to turn some of the donated spuds into delicious French fries. Paired with locally harvested tuktu, which means caribou in English, the food bank served hearty helpings of tuktu poutine to over 700 individuals in the remote and underserved northern community. 

The Ikurraq Food Bank demonstrated its ability to be nimble and creative by using several ways to redistribute all nine pallets of the potatoes to neighbours in need. (Ikurraq in the Inuktitut language translates to “a step up,” after all!) 

In addition to tuktu poutine, the food bank handed out bags of potatoes to regular clients of their weekly food distribution service, which is done on an honour system for anyone in need of access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food. 

“On average we have at least 50 to 70 families in need of support,” said David Fredlund of the Ikurraq Food Bank Society. “The potatoes added a great source for stews, which with additional resources such as caribou are a staple food in our community.” 

At the hand of its dedicated volunteers, the Ikurraq Food Bank also distributed packages of potatoes that were accompanied by locally harvested caribou meat to almost 800 families who arrived at a community event via foot, car, snowmobile and ATV. 

“Clients were extremely happy to get potatoes,” Fredlund added. “They really enjoyed the taste.” 

Banding together to relieve hunger

During the ban on the export of P.E.I. potatoes to the U.S. that lasted from November to early April, Food Banks Canada worked with government officials and the P.E.I. Potato Board to help keep truckloads of fresh, wholesome tubers from going to waste.

Food banks have been in the recovery business since inception, which is why Food Banks Canada did not hesitate to commit to distributing over 4 million pounds of P.E.I. potatoes to food banks across the country. Of those, 37,500 pounds of potatoes were transported all the way to Nunavut, where the food insecurity rate is a staggering 57 per cent.

Food Banks Canada continues to recommend greater focus and attention by governments when it comes to addressing the high levels of food insecurity in Canada’s north. To learn more about our approach and recommendations, read our latest HungerCount report.