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First Nations organization helping out citizens in need with new food bank in Thompson

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak opened facility on Nelson Road Sept. 24 to make a positive impact on the city’s First Nations population.

Thompson residents who are members of many Northern Manitoba First Nations now have another food bank to turn to for help keeping their fridges and cupboards stocked.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) held a grand opening for its new food bank at 31 Nelson Road on Sept. 24.

“We’re reaching out to help our people that have challenges here in the city of Thompson and I’m thankful for the work that has been done to get us this far,” said MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee before cutting the ribbon to officially declare the facility open.

Food packages are available to any citizen of one of MKO's 26 member First Nation who is living in Thompson, said the organization’s urban initiatives manager Shyanna Lynxleg. Recipients are eligible for their first food package as soon as their application is approved and another one every two weeks. The food bank will be open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays.

“There’s very very little criteria,” she said. “You need an ID, that’s for stats for reporting, but other than that we’re not going to put too much red tape behind it because we know that it’s difficult for some people to request food especially during trying times. We have our urban initiative team standing by always ready. We have packages already pre-made so we don’t have to run around and try to make them. It’s going to be very very busy and hectic but it’s a much-needed program so we don’t mind doing the heavy work.”

In addition to food packages, moms-to-be and those with newborns up to three months old can also receive a baby basket with a newborn car seat, a baby bathtub, diapers, formula, clothing, socks, soap, shampoo and lotion.

“We have them all ready and packaged,” Lynxleg said. 

The car seats are particularly needed since new moms can’t be discharged from the hospital without the proper car seat in which to transport their newborn.

“We would often hear them calling at MKO saying, ‘Can we get a car seat? Can you help me? Even if you just loan it to me,’” said Lynxleg.

Credit for getting the food bank up and running goes to food bank co-ordinator Courtney Saunders, intake/packaging support worker Matthew McGillivray and essential services worker Melvin Halkett, Lynxleg says.

“[Halkett] is going to be delivering to the elders and people with mobility issues and single parents who can’t get out,” Lynxleg said. “Especially we’re thinking wintertime, if there’s a single mother and she has three kids and she needs food we’re not going to have her pack up her little babies and come trudging through the snow. We want to make sure that we get that food package to them.”