How Wiikwemkoong is getting supplies to residents during COVID-19 pandemic

Manitoulin Island’s Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory has not seen any cases of COVID-19 yet — and they want to keep it that way. But with people being asked to stay at home, getting supplies can be a challenge. 

The community’s chief says they’ve hired a co-ordinator to secure additional food sources to help during these extraordinary times.

“We’ve assisted our local grocery store here, as an example, and they’ve attained a large-store status. So their deliveries have been increased. As well product availability is now confirmed for them,” Ogimaa Duke Peltier told CBC Up North radio host Waubgeshig Rice.

The community is also working with some of the local pharmacies to have prescriptions delivered directly to the community’s health centre and, from there, are delivered to homes “in a touchless environment to keep everyone safe.”

Peltier said they are also transitioning to virtual care for doctor visits to maintain the community’s health.

But obtaining food and everyday supplies means allowing essential delivery companies to come into the community of about 2,500 people.

“Some of the large food distribution companies … bring in transport loads of food,” Peltier said.

“We allocate to those that are in need … This week it’s 300 homes that are being supported, and an additional 300 homes next week. The food packages consist of a lot of the essentials that families would would need. The whole intent of the program is to minimise our our exposure and minimize travel.”

The program co-ordinator has been successful in procuring a lot of the items that are essentially specialty items, like baby formula, Peltier said.

“And some of the local businesses here on Manitoulin have been very supportive. Some of them specialize in organic foods and vegan-type offerings. They’ve instituted a delivery program that comes to the community once a week.”

All of these measures are being taken with safe physical-distancing in mind, he said.

“Our food packaging team is obviously taking all the precautions … their workstations are all spread apart where they do their work, repackaging many of the bulk food items into smaller items that can be placed into the care packages for each household.”

Peltier said they’ve had overwhelming support for the checkpoint that they’ve put in place, and for the travel restrictions outside of the community.

“They’re aware of the seriousness of COVID-19 and its impact on vulnerable populations across the globe. So they’re they’re very supportive of protecting our people and minimizing the spread into our community.”

Across northern Ontario, several Indigenous communities have limited access to who can get in and out due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And with people being asked to stay at home, that can make getting supplies a challenge. On Manitoulin Island, leaders with the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory are trying to help. Ogimaa Duke Peltier explains more. 5:54

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