Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Feeding the North

I don't typically talk about politics or anything that may be seen as me getting on my soapbox, but if you follow the news, you may have noticed that there has been a lot of buzz about the high cost of food/living for Nunavut residents these days.

I knew from other blogs I've found and our quick trip to the store in Baker Lake, that the prices for items were going to be high. We've been told time and time again, that we should be bringing as much as we can in non-perishable food items and household goods, because spending the money now will save us thousands of dollars later.

However, a woman in Nunavut wanted to bring attention to the issue of high prices/low incomes, and started a Facebook group called Feeding My Family and it's been picked up by media worldwide. It's mind-boggling to think that prices can be so inexplicably different between provinces.

Even with shipping it's ridiculous to think that we pay $2.50 for a 24 case of water in Ontario and it's being sold in Nunavut for $105. Other crazy prices are $28 for a head of cabbage, $5.25 for ONE can of pop, $49 for a pack of toilet paper....the list goes on and on. The Facebook group has been encouraging people to post pictures from their local stores of current food prices to raise awareness.

With the media attention, the group staged a peaceful protest in Ottawa and in the local communities on June 9. From what I read, some communities have mentioned that some prices have already started to drop - and I believe the government has been pretty quiet on the whole subject. What is most shocking is throwing in cost of living and how many people in Nunavut are considered living in poverty and/or going hungry. The average family in the territory getting social assistance is looking at under $20,000 per year and that is to pay for rent, food, utilities...it's a horrible state of affairs in our very own backyard.

For those of us moving from the South, the Government pays us an annual amount that is supposed to off-set the high cost of living in the North, and that makes it easier on us to transition. However, it's the residents that are still paying the same cost for food and supplies but aren't given an "allowance" to help them out - so how do they afford to live?

I think we are fortunate enough that although we are moving to Nunavut, we are moving to a community where the prices are a little bit better from what I can gather. I understand there is a food bank in Baker Lake, and that the stores, although still with high prices, are applying subsidies to the healthier items (milk, bread, fruits, vegetables) and leaving the processed/junk food prices more expensive in the hopes of encouraging people to make healthier choices. Of course, the prices are still more than you'd pay here, but it's still better than a lot of places that have been posting pictures. Perspective, I suppose.

For now, I will try to bring awareness to the issue through this blog if I can, and to educate anyone who is willing to listen.



  1. I applaud you miss. And thank you for helping my son.

  2. Thank you for your comment! I know it's not much, but I will try to bring awareness to the issue to whomever will listen.

  3. Lily, I love your blog! I'm from Winnipeg and my friend actually used to work for Calm Air, so I've heard a lot of stories. :)
    I'm also a new teacher, contemplating applying to northern First Nations schools. I'm loving reading your archives and hearing about your adventures!

    Anyhow, now for a selfish question... I've been following the northern food issue (scandal?), including the FB group for a while. I know "new residents" up north receive an allowance, but is it ... adequate? If we moved up there, I'd be supporting myself and my partner (I'm assuming there aren't going to be a lot of job options for him there, so he'd go back to school - online).

    I agree that it's ridiculous that new residents are essentially bribed to work up north, while the loyal, longterm, native (in the sense of original!) residents have to somehow manage on their own. I have no idea how they do it! How DO they do it? I don't know how I would. Wow.

    Okay, end of ramble. Thanks again for all of your informative, positive, interesting posts!

    1. Thanks for the comment - and yes I'd say the allowance is quite adequate!