Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Aboriginal food insecurity in Northern Canada

In Canada, most people are fortunate enough to not worry about food security and access - we simply make a trip to our local grocery store and are confronted with a wide array of healthy and, usually, affordable food. Despite what we may at times perceive as high prices, most Canadians are able to purchase basic, nutritious food without much difficulty. This is not the case, however, for much of Canada's Northern Aboriginal population.

According to a 2014 article published in The Globe and Mail, this issue is most pronounced in Nunavut where 45.2% of households experienced food insecurity to some extent in 2012, compared to 13% in the rest of Canada. The high cost of groceries in Northern communities results in many families not being able to afford adequate nutritious, healthy food.

Food prices in Nunavut:

  • Frozen chicken strips: $32
  • Bacon: $19
  • 3 or 4 lb. pork roast: $30+
  • More examples

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada introduced the Nutrition North program in 2011, aiming to subsidize and offset the cost of transporting perishable food to remote Northern communities. However, the list of subsidized items excludes many basic staple foods and supplies, such as rice, pasta, canned fruits and vegetables, toothpaste, and shampoo. As a result, the program is largely considered to be a failure and has led to a 247% increased in food bank use in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut between 2008 and 2014 (source).

According to Feeding Nunavut, 70% of Nunavut children currently live in food insecure households, something that is simply unacceptable in a rich, developed country such as Canada. Growing up with a lack of nutritious food can lead to a number of short and long-term health issues that leave these communities in an especially vulnerable situation.

The first step to ending this injustice is spreading awareness and getting educated on the matter, because many Canadians aren't aware of what is happening in their own country. We must spread the word and write to our politicians, demanding a change and demanding that they pay attention. Otherwise, our Northern communities will continue to suffer.

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