Food Insecurity in Northern Canada

Groceries in Northern Canadian communities typically carry an exorbitant price tag, as they must be sent up by cargo ship once a year or flown in. The Nutrition North subsidy program partially mitigates their cost, but fresh, nutritious and culturally appropriate foods remain largely inaccessible. For many Inuit, hunger is set in the broader context of isolation, a housing crisis, poverty, addiction, or the inaccessibility of nutritious hunted or store-bought food.

Harvesting and food sharing are integral aspects of Inuit culture and important food sources, but the cost of equipment can be prohibitive, and climate change and pollution make it increasingly challenging for the Inuit to acquire "country foods" such as seal and arctic char. The rapid transition from a nomadic hunter-gatherer society to a sedentary one has also caused a certain disconnect between the elders’ traditional harvesting knowledge and the expertise needed by youth to purchase and prepare nutritious imported foods. And while Inuit elders grew up eating nutritious harvested food, today’s youth are consuming processed store-bought food and facing high levels of excess weight. The paradox of hunger being accompanied by obesity is amplified by the negative health outcomes of malnourished children.

For this project, Julie De Meulemeester traveled to Iqaluit and Pangnirtung, Nunavut, to determine how current Canadian federal and territorial programs and policies perpetuate the North’s food insecurity crisis, as well as the impact of food insecurity on the Inuit population’s health.