The harsh journey home from grocery shopping

The first snow fell on Iqaluit this week. While many Iqalummiut were excited about the dash of winter weather, others worry about the lack of stores in Apex, and securing staples.

“It would be nice to have a small store down Apex hill. Mostly in the winter we badly need a store,” says Apex resident David Joamie.

Apex is connected to the rest of the city via a long road on the tundra. When it comes to stocking up on groceries and necessities, locals have a hard choice to make in winter — pay $17.50 in cab fare, or undertake a 30-40 minutes walk in harsh Arctic conditions to the Apex Quickstop, the closest corner store.

The shop sells bread, milk, some canned food and frozen goods, but it doesn’t have the selection of a full-sized grocery store — and prices are higher.

The trip is not for everyone. The road is often hazardous and dangerous on foot, especially in blizzards and low visibility. For pedestrians, streets are not well lit which makes walking at night an even bigger challenge.

The city is working with Qulliq Energy Corp. to upgrade street lights by adding one for every three posts along the road. The project is set to start this fall, according to Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell.

The cab fair, which increased from $8 to $8.75 in May this year, is charged for every person in the vehicle. Elders and people with disabilities who need help with their groceries have to send someone for them or pay for two trips back and forth.

A small bus run by the city used to bring pedestrians around town for just $3 a ride, but the service stopped due to high operation costs and low usage.

After paying approximately $137,000 for the service, the city determined giving taxi vouchers to every resident would save almost $100,000 a year, according to a CBC report from 2007.

To reach Arctic Ventures, the closest full size grocery store, Iqalummiut have to walk 55 minutes from Apex.

Félix Charron-Leclerc, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunavut News