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by Teevi Mackay

Click here if you wish to read this article in Inuktitut.

Some people in the North are facing challenges and food “insecurity” is definitely one of them. I came up to Iqaluit for a week this past February and I made sure to bring up enough food to last the week, because I did not want to spend a fortune on food, which is what you are forced to do when you live in the North. That made me think about how people there are faced with this challenge: access to affordable and fresh food. How they cope with it.

I grew up in the 90s in Iqaluit while my mother was a single parent. We had our fair share of challenges during this time. Food was definitely cheaper then, and surviving in Nunavut’s capital was a lot easier than it is today. At times we made good use of the food mail program, which really did make a difference in terms of having fresh food, food that was quick to arrive from Montreal. Still, some days were tougher, much tougher than others. I remember one instance where I went home for lunch and the only thing I was able to find to eat was a package of premium plus crackers. I remember watching TV while eating those crackers only to consume the whole package over my lunch break! It was all that I could find and it was all that I would be able to have for lunch that day. That experience makes me feel for those young people in the North faced with the difficulty of getting sufficient food to keep them going.

The past year saw widespread protests across the North that revolved around the high cost of food. People are publicly voicing their personal experiences about the absence of fresh, affordable food — there is even evidence of expired (stale-dated) food still on shelves for sale. Social media such as Twitter and Facebook play important roles to help spread the word.The Facebook group, Feeding My Family, is a grassroots initiative that currently has close to 20,000 members and seeks to address the food “insecurity” problem head on. People in the North are becoming courageously engaged and thinking out loud. Feeding My Family has helped people mobilize northerners around this serious issue and has lent both substance and purpose to their message to Northern leaders.

A lot of disappointment across the North is being expressed in regard to the Nutrition North program too. One obvious concern voiced is that the program does not really have a proper monitoring system in place at the moment. I know that many homes in the North still have empty fridges most of the time.

Quite a few families are living pay cheque to pay cheque, which means that at times — usually just days before they are to get paid — they do not have adequate food in the house to properly feed their families. Access to country food has become more difficult too, especially since it costs a lot to just go hunting these days. And the effects upon the environment by climate change too have made hunting more difficult. People are selling country food now, whereas before this would never happen.

I am a mother of a beautiful seven-year-old daughter and my foremost concern for her is ensuring that I have adequate and healthy food for her, even while I am a student. Food is such a necessary, fundamental human need and is required in order for children to do well in school. It is common knowledge that education is key to the growth and development of the North, but first we must make sure that young people are fed properly and in good health so they can focus while in school.

On February 4, 2013, the program, Community First: Impacts of Community Engagement (CFICE) was officially launched at Carleton University. Part of this initiative aims to address food “insecurity” in Canada through research and action at the community level. Nationally, almost four million Canadians suffer from food “insecurity” — mostly the unemployed, single parent homes, Aboriginals, students and the homeless.

CFICE was launched through a panel discussion, which included Terry Audla, the president of the national Inuit organization Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK). Audla helped launch the new program as a panellist. Audla said that 70 per cent of Inuit in Nunavut alone are food insecure, which is a staggering percentage. The aim of this nation-wide project is to mobilize action through research; research that’ll take place at community centres across the country with the aim of influencing public policy.

This also includes dialogue with Food Secure Canada, an organization that is participating in discussions with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. CFICE is receiving $2.5 million over seven years for this project. If Northerners would like to participate in this research they can contact Professor Peter Andrée at Carleton University.

While I was in Iqaluit, I visited a home with two elders and a family of six all living together. When I saw that their fridge was virtually empty, it gave me a helpless feeling. This family is heavily reliant upon bannock for their meals most of the time and whatever country food is given to them. Renting a home is very expensive in the North and most of the money this family receives and makes goes to rent. Quite a few people are forced to leave the North because of the high cost of living there. Some leave jobs, important jobs that need to be adequately filled in the North. Who can blame them if they are able to live in the South, make less, but live far more comfortably because life’s essentials are so much more affordable.

I think it’s safe to say that many Inuit in the North are only just making it, or surviving. Food, proper food, should be an essential right,especially for growing children who are not in a position to provide for themselves. It is not fair that people living in the North, many of whom through no fault of their own lack the formal education required for high paying jobs, are forced to live this way. The North is a beautiful place. It represents home to me. But it should also be an affordable place to live and raise a family.

The Facebook group, Feeding My Family, is a grassroots initiative that currently has close to 20,000 members and seeks to address the food “insecurity” problem head on. People in the North are becoming courageously engaged and thinking out loud. Feeding My Family has helped people mobilize northerners around this serious issue and has lent both substance and purpose to their message to Northern leaders.

A lot of disappointment across the North is being expressed in regard to the Nutrition North program too. One obvious concern voiced is that the program does not really have a proper monitoring system in place at the moment. I know that many homes in the North still have empty fridges most of the time.
Quite a few families are living pay cheque to pay cheque, which means that at times — usually just days before they are to get paid — they do not have adequate food in the house to properly feed their families. Access to country food has become more difficult too, especially since it costs a lot to just go hunting these days. And the effects upon the environment by climate change too have made hunting more difficult. People are selling country food now, whereas before this would never happen.

I am a mother of a beautiful seven-year-old daughter and my foremost concern for her is ensuring that I have adequate and healthy food for her, even while I am a student. Food is such a necessary, fundamental human need and is required in order for children to do well in school. It is common knowledge that education is key to the growth and development of the North, but first we must make sure that young people are fed properly and in good health so they can focus while in school.

On February 4, 2013, the program, Community First: Impacts of Community Engagement (CFICE) was officially launched at Carleton University. Part of this initiative aims to address food “insecurity” in Canada through research and action at the community level. Nationally, almost four million Canadians suffer from food “insecurity” — mostly the unemployed, single parent homes, Aboriginals, students and the homeless.

CFICE was launched through a panel discussion, which included Terry Audla, the president of the national Inuit organization Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK). Audla helped launch the new program as a panellist. Audla said that 70 per cent of Inuit in Nunavut alone are food insecure, which is a staggering percentage. The aim of this nation-wide project is to mobilize action through research; research that’ll take place at community centres across the country with the aim of influencing public policy.

This also includes dialogue with Food Secure Canada, an organization that is participating in discussions with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. CFICE is receiving $2.5 million over seven years for this project. If Northerners would like to participate in this research they can contact Professor Peter Andrée at Carleton University.

While I was in Iqaluit, I visited a home with two elders and a family of six all living together. When I saw that their fridge was virtually empty, it gave me a helpless feeling. This family is heavily reliant upon bannock for their meals most of the time and whatever country food is given to them. Renting a home is very expensive in the North and most of the money this family receives and makes goes to rent. Quite a few people are forced to leave the North because of the high cost of living there. Some leave jobs, important jobs that need to be adequately filled in the North. Who can blame them if they are able to live in the South, make less, but live far more comfortably because life’s essentials are so much more affordable.

I think it’s safe to say that many Inuit in the North are only just making it, or surviving. Food, proper food, should be an essential right,especially for growing children who are not in a position to provide for themselves. It is not fair that people living in the North, many of whom through no fault of their own lack the formal education required for high paying jobs, are forced to live this way. The North is a beautiful place. It represents home to me. But it should also be an affordable place to live and raise a family.

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