Port of Prince Rupert president and CEO Don Krusel cuts cedar ribbons with Gitxaala elders at a celebration in Kitkatla last week

Port invests $244,000 in Gitxaala garden and kitchen project

The Gitxaala Nation received $244,000 from the Port of Prince Rupert's Community Investment Fund toward a garden, greenhouse and kitchen.

The Gitxaala Nation received $244,000 from the Port of Prince Rupert’s Community Investment Fund toward a garden, greenhouse and renovated kitchen in an effort to preserve traditional food production.

More than one hundred Kitkatla residents were at an event on April 12 that launched the Gitxaala Community Garden and Kitchen project. Staff from the Port of Prince Rupert prepared and served the first meal from the new kitchen.

“We couldn’t be happier after seeing the impact of these projects first-hand,” said Don Krusel, president of the Port of Prince Rupert. “The community kitchen and garden are physical embodiments of the spirit of our Community Investment Fund, which was established to enable significant quality of life improvements to a broad demographic of community members.”

The community kitchen, known as “the loaf of bread” by residents for its design, had deteriorated over the years. With the port’s support, the village’s housing coordinator, Ernie Westgarth, directed workers to renovate the building, install a new kitchen and include a two-story deck so those who use the facility can sit outside with an ocean view.

“These new facilities will go a long way to fostering the greater independence and sustainability of our nation, providing meaningful educational opportunities while strengthening the social fabric of our community,” said Clifford White, chief councillor of the Gitxaaa Nation.

The Gitxaala plan to look into a partnership with NorthWest Community College to offer a culinary training program for those who want to pursue employment opportunities in the region.

The 20-by-40 foot greenhouse has a heating and water system and will be an improvement to Kitkatla’s garden program. The program was launched a few years ago but floundered due to a lack of naturally occurring topsoil and the cost of bringing topsoil into the community was also a challenge.

In a press release by the port, it states that the greenhouse will help promote physical activity through gardening and maintenance, and will lead to a reduction in diet-related illnesses in the community.

“It’s been an amazing community effort to put our Food Security Plan into action, and the garden project is directly contributing to early childhood wellness,” said Cindy Ignas, health director for Gitxaala Nation.

“We’re so thankful for the contribution from the Port of Prince Rupert, and everyone is looking forward to getting food from the garden into the breakfast program at Lach Klan School and the prenatal packages delivered by the maternal health program.”

The port was the largest funder in the Gitxaala Community Garden and Kitchen project. The community also received funding from BC Ministry of Agriculture, Coast Industrial Construction and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of BC and Yukon.