Nutrition North Canada (NNC) is a program put in place to subsidize select foods for Nunavut communities. The controversy about northern food prices arises every year and with each passing government. For example, in 2014 the federal Auditor’s General Report recommended changes to community eligibility, also to ensure the subsidies are passed onto consumers, and to improve the application of cost containment measures.
The NNC bureaucracy doesn’t include subsidies for so-called 'necessary non-food items' (such as medical devices, hygiene products, farming / gardening supplies, harvesting equipment); nor does NNC subsidize inter-community transport of traditional food.
In spite of initiatives like NNC (and others over the years including programs running provincially in Quebec's north), food insecurity in Nunavut remains a vexing problem. [http://www.feedingnunavut.com/]
Food insecurity is a state of being that renders people short of, "reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food." Feeding Nunavut says, "Sixty percent of the Territory's children live in food insecure households; 70% of Inuit preschool children live in food insecure homes; 76% of severely food insecure children regularly skip meals."
In fact, "In Nunavut a kilo of celery can cost $10," (said Action Canada in 2014), and, "Nearly 70 per cent of all households in Nunavut have trouble accessing enough affordable, nutritious food, and the number of families that have difficulty accessing food is nearly six times higher than for Canada as a whole. In short, there is a serious problem in Nunavut that threatens individual and community health." [http://www.actioncanada.ca/project/hunger-nunavut-local-food-healthier-communities/]
In a 2015 Food Banks Canada report, they recommended improved food security for Nunavut by, "Replacing the current system of social assistance with a basic income that is tied to the regional costs of living. Increasing opportunities for individuals living in the territories to have input on what food items are subsidized by government-funded programs."
Homelesshub.ca wrote in Feb. 17, 2016, "Nunavut residents spend more than twice as much on food than other Canadians. This is a contributing factor to why an estimated two in five households, and 62% of children, are considered to be food insecure," in that region of Canada.
In 2016, HuffPost reported that in Nunavut, "For years the northern territory has made headlines with its shocking food prices — $28 for a head of cabbage, $82 for a case of ginger ale, $500 for a family's groceries for just a week. New numbers from the Nunavut Bureau of Statistics show that the problem's not getting any better. In some cases, it's actually getting worse.
"There are food staples that now cost triple in Nunavut what they do in the rest of the country. For example, the average price of a can of tomatoes is $1.60 across Canada, but it's $5.32 in Nunavut. And a bag of sugar — which would be around $2.69 in other areas — goes for $9.65 in the northern territory." [http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2016/06/27/nunavut-food-prices_n_10691062.html] Jun 27 2016
In an academic report released in April 2016 from Athabasca University, entitled, "FOOD INSECURITY: REASONS AND SOLUTIONS FOR VULNERABILITIES IN NUNAVUT By TAYLOR PAXTON-DUNN, "The types of foods relied on by the Inuit were hunted or gathered from the land . . . including such things as narwhal, ringed seal, and fish (such as arctic char), caribou, and berries. This food allowed a connection to culture and land, as one Inuit woman noted: 'Like when I go pick that mint, like I feel a connection with kind of how I was taught . . . '"
Approximately 33,000 people make Nunavut home, "84 per cent of who are Inuit." The Paxton-Dunn report says, "Unemployment is around 15 percent. For many adults, the choice is for them to go hungry so that their children may eat. Families may spend 500 to 600 dollars on food in a week."
Adding to the food insecurity, "Nunavut’s own mining development is also contributing to damaging the arctic environment and traditional food sources. The animals consume contaminated water, fish or plants and pass the contaminants on to people through country food." In spite of these industrialization threats, "The Hunger in Nunavut project still encourages the consumption of country food for wellbeing, saying, research has established that a diet based exclusively on local food sources can provide adequate levels of vitamins and nutrients, and is an excellent source of protein, healthy fat, and energy." [http://dtpr.lib.athabascau.ca/action/download.php?filename=mais/700/MAIS700TaylorPaxtonDunnProject.pdf]
The New York based World Policy Institute discussed Arctic hunger in 2015, ""Families struggle every day to pay for necessities such as clothing and shelter because of the amount of family income they spend on food. According to the Inuit Health Survey, the average household spends $380 per week on food, or $19,760 per year. With 49.6 percent of Inuit adults earning less than $20,000 per year, the cost of food is a shockingly large burden." [http://www.worldpolicy.org/blog/2015/04/15/hunger-arctic]
Meanwhile the process of feeding northern commuities experiences a continuous flux of studies and recommendations. Most recently, "A complete overhaul of Nutrition North Canada should include, 1. Re-allocating the Nutrition North subsidy to include non-profit food markets and the transportation of traditional foods; 2) Reinstatement of subsidies for necessary non-food items such as gardening/farming supplies, and harvesting equipment; 3) Ensuring the cooperation of all levels of government and the coordination of provincial, territorial and federal service providers, departments, and organizations; and 4) Establishing accountability mechanisms, including clear time frames and benchmarks, to address the current state of food insecurity among northern Canadians.
It is often strictly wishful thinking to look elsewhere for places where the grass is greener. Some Europeans, however, have longer experience and different approaches. One model for development of food distribution at equitable rates in northern geographic extremes includes Greenland.
According to history, the KNI/AS conglomerate was reorganized in 1992 out of the Royal Greenland Trading Department (Den Kongelige Grønlandske Handel, KGH), originally founded in 1774 as a Dano-Norwegian state enterprise. "KNI is represented in 71 different localities in Greenland, and at the end of the financial year 2015/16 the Company had around 918 employees, corresponding to 747 full-time positions," says the KNI 2016 Annual Report (http://www.kni.gl/files/5114/7162/2733/KNI_arsrapport_UK_1516_oprindelig_version.pdf)
Greenland has a majority of 56,239 residents who are Inuit, including ancestors who began migrating from the mainland of present day Canada in the 13th century. There was a gradual settling across the giant island, which is in fact part of the North American geological lay of the land.
The KNI annual report (2016) continues, "The KNI spirit is characterised by a sense of social responsibility and dedication to the fulfilment of its obligation to supply vital service tasks in sparsely-populated localities where there is not otherwise a commercial basis for operating such trading activities throughout the year. Security of supply is essential in order to enable people to enjoy a good life in the country‟s villages and small towns. KNI maintains a constant focus on this responsibility."
In alluding to the so-called 'socialistic' aspects of supplying food to this extreme northern locatioin, "It is a myth that public sector (state-owned) enterprises are backward compared to private companies when it comes to service-mindedness, i.e. the mission to put the customer first and in general keep up with global development trends in this area. But it is a hard myth to crack – even when it has no basis whatever in reality.
"At KNI, we are very attentive to developing a workplace culture that is based on openness, honesty, business acumen and common sense. Our workplace culture must show respect for Greenlandic culture and society."
Attentive indeed, KNI is 100% Greenlandic owned and offers prices on food as follows:
Celery, $1.89/.77 Ibs.
Danish cucumber, $4.50.
Iceberg lettuce, $6.30.
Pink Lady apples (8), $7.20.
Kernel rye bread loaf, $4.68.
Market rye bread loaf, $5.00. Small pork chops (6), $9.63.
Cubed lean beef, $10.73/1 Ib.
Erik the Red sailed from Iceland to Greenland in 982 C.E. and spent a short term of about three years farming on the southern coastline. By 986, he referred to the place as Greenland to entice settlers using a deceptive sounding name. The enticement didn't take until much later in the millenium. The responsibility for food security always lay at the centre of the Danes developmental initiatives. Maybe this isn't just wishful thinking after all.