The High Cost of Food in Nunavut

Food is very expensive all over Nunavut, even in the hub of Iqaluit. But why? imamges

Long ago a group of people were transported way up north by boat and then left there on purpose.  The hope was that they would settle and populate the area.  Perhaps the government was strategically populating areas to hold the land as uninhabited areas would be tempting for surrounding countries.This group of Inuit was left behind to watch the boat sail away.  It is truly amazing that they survived and multiplied as it would have been a challenge to start over in a new location.

This offspring of this group are still going strong and are no longer as isolated as they once were.  You can fly into the communities when weather permits and boat in when the waterways are not frozen.  They have cell phones, internet connection, and stores where they can buy rather than hunt food. Extremely expensive food.

Why Food Costs are so Steep in Nunavut

impagesThe price of food is always a hot topic in Nunavut.  The stores have high overhead. They need to pay for heat, hydro, shipping or flying in of goods, payroll and staffing, building expenses, and rent. The customer always pays the expenses of the establishment; that’s business. So what’s the big deal? The big deal is that Nunavut residents suspect the stores are hiding behind these excuses and the prices are higher than necessary. The stores deny it of course but why has the price of milk gone down only marginally since these companies have been collecting subsidies for the products that Nunavut residents purchase?

What is the alternative? Families have two options to attain the foods the need: they can buy the food from the stores in Nunavut or pay private companies to ship their groceries to them from locations like Ottawa and Winnipeg.  Most people have had to continue shopping at the local stores as they can’t afford the upfront fees to buy privately.


Customers are still paying the air freight and all other fees from local stores like Arctic Ventures and Northmart, but it’s all rolled into the prices making it easy for companies to bury or inflate costs.  Customers who bought from private companies like The Northern Shopper are paying regular rates for food and after freight, shopping, and administrative fees it still costs less or comparable to the local stores.  The bonus with using a private company is that the subsidy is clearly outlined on the invoice, the food is usually fresher and is the exact brand and flavour the customer wants. All the customer has to do is pick it up from the airport.

How the Canadian Government is Trying to Help Lower Food Costs for Nunavut Residents

The Canadian government has instituted a program called Nutrition North Canada which provides Nunavut residents with subsidy on approved food items.  They are trying to encourage people living in northern Canada to eat healthier by giving them a discount if they order healthy perishable food.  Many people still struggle to eat fresh food because the only way to deliver perishable food is by plane.

Aside from this healthy food subsidy, I feel like our government could come up with more money to help up North.

What I Think the Government Should do to Help Nunavut

Drawing of how $5 million Airport Parkway Bridge should look when completed.

Drawing of how $5 million Airport Parkway Bridge should look when completed.

Off the top of my head I can think of an easy $5 million dollars that could have went towards making food less expensive for the general public up north.  In Ottawa, they are building a bridge over the Airport Parkway. This pedestrian bridge is supposed to save people from having to run across the busy road to get to the shopping mall and to serve as a touristy monument.  The politician in charge of this project says this area of the Airport Parkway was too dangerous because people were running across the road. What if we just encouraged people to take the long route using sidewalks and traffic lights to the mall since not everything in life has to be a shortcut?  I can’t just walk across the highway beside my house because I want to go somewhere on the other side.  Common sense must be used.

Here is my simple plan:

1.  Tell people it is illegal to run across this busy road no matter what the circumstance. Ticket the jaywalkers. Put these jaywalking fines towards reducing the cost of shipping food up north.

2.  Don’t build a 5 million dollar bridge in the middle of nowhere to help with a problem that stems from people being lazy.  Take this $5 million and put it towards reducing the cost of shipping food up north.

3. If this politician is still set on putting a tourist monument along this busy road, we should place a large beautiful Inuit carving on the side of the road with a huge sign on it that reads, “we didn’t build a bridge here and gave the $5 million to people in need”.




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