Home Blog January 2017 We need real change on northern food security

We need real change on northern food security

We need real change on northern food security
The HungerCount report shows that, in March 2016, food banks across northern Canada provided food to 21,000 people – almost 4% of the regional population in a single month. We are seeing growth in the use of food programs that have existed in the north for many years, as well as new food programs that have been founded quite recently to address the glaring need for help.
Thanks to organizations like the Expert Panel on the State of Knowledge of Food Security in Northern Canada and PROOF, no one can dispute the alarming data on hunger and food insecurity in the North. One in five households in the territories are food insecure; the Expert Panel notes that the territory of Nunavut has the “highest documented rate of food insecurity for any Indigenous population living in a developed country.” The picture is similar across the north, including northern provincial regions.
High cost of food is just one factor
Much attention has been paid to the high cost of food in the North, including a recent report in Ontario from Food Secure Canada. A week’s worth of groceries in isolated northern communities can cost twice as much, and more, as a similar basket of food in the south. Feeding My Family, led by Leesee Papatsie, has had incredible success in bringing Canadians’ attention to the problem.
As we note in two recent reports, northern food insecurity is about much more than the cost of food; it is the result of a combination of factors, including:
  • The effects of the residential school trauma, including the loss of community knowledge of traditional practices (including hunting, fishing and trapping);
  • High costs related to hunting/harvesting traditional foods;
  • A decline in the number of people who have the knowledge, time and resources to harvest traditional foods;
  • Changes in animal behaviour and availability due to climate change;
  • Widespread low income;
  • A growing dependence on store-bought foods.
Make northern food security a leading priority
Far too many northerners lack access to affordable, culturally appropriate foods; this is nothing less than a public health emergency. Across the north, there is great anticipation about the federal government’s consultation on Nutrition North Canada, with (we hope) a report and plan of action coming soon. However, we cannot rely on Nutrition North Canada to address the problem on its own – it is far too small and limited in scope.
We need to look beyond Nutrition North Canada if we are to truly address the unacceptable problem of northern food insecurity. We need federal, provincial and territorial governments to make this a leading priority, and to invest accordingly. For more information on our related policy recommendations, please see the 2016 HungerCount report, and Food Banks Canada’s other recent work in this area.

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of food distributed by Canadian food banks is fresh (eg. milk, eggs, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, bread)