Poverty, unemployment, and staggeringly high grocery bills have led to a long-standing, often-ignored food security crisis in Northern Canada. A typical trip to the grocery store will cost someone in Nunavut an average of $219.80, compared with an average of $113.99 in the rest of Canada. Fresh fruits and vegetables are difficult to find, and often spoil by the time they reach their destination. The effects of the crisis are felt especially by the Inuit, who have median incomes of $19 900/year, compared with $86 600/year for non-Aboriginal people. According to The Globe and Mail, 7/10 Inuit preschoolers live in homes without enough to eat.
The federal government has taken action — Nutrition North, a food-subsidy program (which replaced Food Mail in 2011) has driven down prices of “healthy” subsidized food by 5.5%. But there are criticisms that the subsidized foods are not culturally appropriate, and that selectively subsidizing foods doesn’t allow Northerners to make their own decisions about what to eat. Staple foods, such as flour and milk, remain exorbitantly expensive ($5/kilo and $10/4 L respectively).
Last year, Leesee Papatsie founded the Feeding My Family Group to highlight the high costs of food in Northern Canada and work with other Northerners to find solutions to the problem. It’s a huge task in an area where labour, building, maintenance, and electricity costs drive up the price of everything, but so far the coalition has succeeded in drawing Northerners together and brought the problem of food security to the attention of Southern Canadians.
I would recommend taking a look at the websites below to find out more about this issue.
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– Hannah Shirtliff