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Marten Falls First Nation celebrates opening of community store

Dougall Media caught up with general manager, Craig Quesnelle, and assistant general manager, Conrad Baxter, to discuss how the store is ensuring greater food security for community members.
Marten Falls First Nation aerial

MARTEN FALLS – There was a big win for food security in Marten Falls First Nation this fall.

The community celebrated the grand opening of their brand new Adawegamik community store on October 20th.

The building that houses the new store was once a community centre.

The store is an important development for the fly-in community, which gives residents easier access to much-needed items including dairy and produce products that would otherwise require more time and money to fly from Nakina to the community via North Star Air.

Dougall Media visited Marten Falls recently to learn more about the impact the new store has had on the community.

Adawegamik assistant general manager, Conrad Baxter, said the store is a welcome and much-needed addition to Marten Falls First Nation.

“It will greatly benefit the community,” Baxter said. “It will help with our food security . . . because people can come into the store and grab what they need instead of depending on resources from outside the community.”

Baxter specifically mentioned that the opening of the store will help put a dent in delays people often face through the fly-in process when ordering their food to Marten Falls.

General Manager Craig Quesnelle gave a rundown of what getting supplies can look like in a remote community like Marten Falls.

“It’s a complicated process, not like down south where you have a truck that will bring it straight to your store. We have to get it trucked to the airport – in this case, it comes out of Pickle Lake right now but we’re changing that to Nakina. It comes by plane to Ogoki Post here and then we market it on the shelves,” Quesnelle said.

He added that one of the biggest challenges - in addition to transportation - is finding the right price for the goods they need.

“The tough thing is to find the balance of what the cost is to get it here and getting a reasonable price for our customers so that it makes it practical for them to shop here and not go through something like Amazon or Daneff’s down in Geraldton.

"So it’s important that we monitor that. Some hoops to get through to get it here and we’re making some changes so it's a little bit easier to price with a good margin, but also so the customers can afford it,” he said.

On the other hand, there are some items that pose a problem when faced with travel delays.

Quesnelle said that although produce, for example, usually gets shipped up to Marten Falls in one day, weather delays or technical difficulties can result in product “dating” as it sits in limbo, which leaves them with little time to sell it once it finally arrives.

But between cost-savings and accessibility, opening Adawegamik community store is a major improvement for residents.

The celebration of Adawegamik’s opening comes about nine months after the federal government granted $4.5 million to Kiikenomaga Kikenjigewen Employment and Training Services (KKETS) in support of their Harvesters Support Program designed to help remote First Nations communities fight food insecurity.

Speaking to Dougall Media in September, Marten Falls economic development officer Robert Moonias said that KKETS were “instrumental” partners in helping the community bring the Adawegamik store to fruition.

Mawachintoon Anishnabe Miijim (a division of KKETS) development coordinator Ulysses Lachinette said that the store is a collaborative effort between their organization and Feed Ontario, who specifically provided shelving and refrigeration units. 

The announcement, made in March, outlined how the $4.5 million would be distributed over 18 months to five local First Nations including Marten Falls.

Now, with their own store open and up-and-running, Marten Falls First Nation can house and manage food items more effectively to prevent further food insecurity.

Not only that, profits from the new store go right back into the community.

“It’s good. The community can feel better that [the profits] aren’t going out of town and they will eventually invest more into the community,” Baxter said.

Austin Campbell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Austin Campbell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Austin Campbell is a local journal initiative reporter covering stories in the Superior North region.
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