Imagine walking into a grocery store…and paying $30 for one cabbage, $20 for a bag of rice, $50 for frozen chicken, and $17 for a tub of margarine.
Sounds impossible, but that is exactly what is happening to communities all over Nunavut. With soaring gas prices and inefficient or insubstantial government subsidy programs, northern communities in Canada, where food is already expensive due to transportation costs, are experiencing a hike in food prices so extreme that many can barely afford to feed their families.
The average income for Inuit workers in Nunavut was just under $20,000 in 2006. According to the Nunavut Inuit Child Health Survey, around 70% of families with small children are food insecure - meaning they have insufficient access to adequate amounts of healthy food on a regular basis.
Country food, traditional Inuit food caught off the land, is an expensive alternative to the food available in supermarkets. Hunting and fishing trips require pricy equipment and gasoline, as well as a few days off work. Additionally, climate change has altered the normal migratory routes and behaviors of animals like caribou and seals, making hunting for even experienced Inuit a guessing game at times.
The situation in Nunavut has become so dire that resident Leesee Papatsie started a Facebook group, called “Feeding My Family,” to showcase the food prices she faces daily. Photos of outrageous sticker prices on common items have garnered a huge response on the Internet, and the group has reached more than 20,000 followers on Facebook. (All the photos above were taken from the Facebook group, and belong to their respective owners.) Protests have been taking place at supermarkets all over Nunavut, with hope of response and relief from the regional and national governments.
This is certainly a pressing modern Arctic issue, and the Museum staff have been following it closely - we hope this blog post will draw more attention to the matter. To learn more, check out this article from the BBC, the UN Food Rapporteur’s findings on Nunavut (PDF), and an outsider’s look at the food situation in Nunavut by MP Jean Crowder. There’s also a petition created by the “Feeding my Family” administrators that’s available to sign.