Top News

Food supplies dwindling in Labrador communities due to severe ice conditions

The MV Qajaq W arrived in the Strait of Belle Isle for two crossings on Sunday, Jan. 27. Pictured is the ferry arriving in Blanc Sablon for the first time.
Severe ice conditions on the Strait of Belle Isle has stopped the ferry from crossing and halted regular shipments of produce from Newfoundland and some places haven't seen a delivery truck in weeks. - FILE PHOTO
CARTWRIGHT, N.L. —

Grocery store shelves in southern Labrador are starting to look very bare.

Severe ice conditions on the Strait of Belle Isle halted regular shipments of produce from Newfoundland, and some places haven't seen a delivery truck in weeks.

“ A lot of our customers come in and they want to get fresh produce...but we just don't have it to give them,” said Candice Lethbridge, the manager of M&K in Cartwright. “We don't have oranges, apples, basic fruit, eggs; all bakery supplies; a lot of frozen meats we've run out of...we don't have any milk.

“We had a customer come in here just now and she said 'there's nothing here'. And our shelves are getting very low.”

On March 12, the Department of Transportation and Works announced that they would start temporarily flying dairy products to the impacted communities. They also said perishable food items would get priority loading on Marine Atlantic crossings.

In the meantime, Candice Lethbridge has arranged for her supplier to bring in a shipment of goods through Quebec, so at least the store can remain open for a while longer.

“We have eight employees here, we have eight people that have to feed their families,” she said.

“I'm just wondering why we aren't getting a regular supply from Quebec. This is the same story every single year: The ice conditions, the ferries...”

Time for a change

Cartwright Mayor Dwight Lethbridge says it may be time to stop relying on ferry services for all of the area's food supply.

“All of our fresh produce and root vegetables (have run out) because nobody stocks it in. We've gotten into a habit of getting our freight every week, or worst-case scenario every two weeks...” he said

'We're all hurting. We're all struggling to keep up supplies, it's even difficult to get beer and soft drinks.”

Given the severe ice conditions, the mayor doesn't think anyone is to blame for the ferry being unable to make the crossing. But he believes it's time to start looking at alternative options for food delivery.

“It's really beyond anybody's control. It makes me wonder if we shouldn't save everybody a whole lot of stress and strife and shut down that ferry service for a month-and-a-half or two months a year," he said.

“If we're not depending on it, we'll adjust, just like we did before.”

More than food

It's not just food supplies that get stuck in Newfoundland due to ice conditions. Dwight Lethbridge notes that reliance on the ferry system has gotten many Labradorians stuck on the island, costing travellers and taxpayers a lot of money.

“It costs the general public (who are) travelling a fortune out of pocket to get stuck in one place or the other; they're paying hotels out of pocket...I know cases where people have completely run out of money in the middle of their travels,” he said.

“It's an ongoing conversation every year...I think the conditions, in this case, are too extreme...they have two icebreakers in the area that have tried, and they can't even get through it.”

gxrth@stu.ca


On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend The Telegram?


Recent Stories