Sunday, February 13, 2011

Food prices skyrocket under Canada's Nutrition North program

These grocery shelves in the High Arctic community of Arctic Bay, Nunavut, have people talking this week -- $38 for cranberry cocktail, $29 for Cheez Whiz, and a whopping $77 for a bag of breaded chicken.
Arctic Bay-based MLA Ron Elliott, who represents three of Canada's most northern communities, said he is concerned about already high food prices going up even more in the High Arctic.
"It's sort of the talk of the town," he told CBC News on Thursday. "You go in and people are pointing [things] out, and it's obvious to see that this has gone up, and that's gone up."
While groceries in Canada's remote northern communities are generally more expensive than elsewhere in the country, due to shipping costs, Elliott said prices in his communities have skyrocketed since the federal government changed its northern food subsidy program in the past year.
Elliott said the new subsidy program, called Nutrition North, does not cover food items that are considered not to be healthy or perishable, although those items used to be covered under the government's old Food Mail Program.
Elliott said the price hikes are hurting the most vulnerable people in his region, like elders and those on social assistance. Even some healthy foods that are subsidized are still out of some people's price range, he said.

No exemptions: official

The Nutrition North Program replaces the 40-year-old Food Mail Program, in which the costs of transporting grocery items to remote northern communities were subsidized by the federal Indian and Northern Affairs Department.
The Nutrition North subsidy instead goes to retailers, which in turn negotiate their own freight rates with airlines. Retailers are then expected to pass on savings from the subsidy to consumers. Wilfred Wilcox, who represents Nunavut on Nutrition North's advisory board, said while he's sympathetic to the concerns of people in Arctic Bay, he cannot analyze the situation without knowing how much items cost before and when the prices went up.
"I don't think that it can be done in isolation of the other factors," Wilcox added. "The other factors are what the freight rates are and where the retailer sits with things."
Elliott said he would like Ottawa to exempt High Arctic communities from the Nutrition North Program because of their unique situation. The Yukon community of Old Crow is also requesting an exemption.
But Wilcox said it's not possible for those communities to be exempted from Nutrition North.
This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.

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Food Mail allowed a long list of eligible foods and hygiene products to be shipped at 80 cents per kilogram. The unsubsidized price is now about $13 per kilogram to ship to Arctic Bay, according to the local economic development officer.
Northern Stores – the region’s foremost retailer – says its air freight price has now gone up six fold in some cases (in winter, food must be flown into the community). The price increases that have sparked consumer complaints are for recently delivered items.



#1. Posted by Baker on February 21, 2011
Skills to cook eh.
Making pizza from scratch with the prices in Nunavut is way more expensive than buying the processed crap.
Its not home made, its delissio
you have added 45million to the program yet fresh food that is supposed to be more affordable have not been reduced, in my opinion it has gone up. This is a load of crap. The program ended in what oct and the new one is not implemented till April. what am i supposed to do till than, go to the soup kitch with my kid?
“You could ship tires under the food mail program. There was one registered shipper, and all he shipped was rubber tires,” Duncan said.
So this is why we have to starve?, cause someone abused the old program and instead of fixing the glitches and enforcing what was allowed and not allowed you had to screw all of Nunavut - just make the poor poorer eh
#2. Posted by NorthernLass on February 21, 2011
“Those items were not subsidized under food mail… The effect of subsidizing nutritious food and not subsidizing non-nutritious will be hopefully to affect consumer choices,” Duncan said.
And he suggested that food retailers may be wise to keep such high-price, air-freighted items off their shelves for now.
Is the Minister of Northern Affairs now trying to tell us what we can and cannot eat? I’m all for not subsidising unhealthy food(except, pizza is still subsidized?) but to tell Canadians what we may or may not eat? It’s not the south where we can drive to the next town over and get food thats not on our local shelves.
#3. Posted by qavvigarjuk on February 21, 2011
Just received an email from safeway foods Winnipeg last friday saying that they will no longer participate in the food mail program for Kivallirmiut as of April 01 because of the amount of paperwork they will have to do. with the new program.  Cantors Grocery and Harris meats are not answering their phones nor returning my calls today probably for the same reason I bet. So much for individiual people who still want to order their own food mail !!!!! I do not care what anybody says. I still do not want to buy from our local store as they are the “middleman”. Food bought from there will always be more expensive as they have employees to pay and have to heat their store than if I order my own. Thanks alot guys for giving us the people the shaft and giving business the incentives instead. I WANT THE OLD SYSTEM BACK. Feds, who are you to tell us what we should and should not eat? I can just imagine if you tried doing the same to regular Canadians down south. There would be a revolution againts the Goverment!!!!
#4. Posted by Jorgan Aitaok on February 21, 2011
This is how the Federal Government works, they make all the important decisions that affect us Northerners, by making the rules for us.  They set out what we need to buy that is healthy for us, they set out the housing markets for us to live in.
It would be nice to have the access roads that connect cheaper prices that they have in the south, and with the monopoly of the Northern Store and COOP, and same with the airlines, Canadian North and First Air, they can set the prices to whatever they want, I wonder what they pull in for profit during the year?
#5. Posted by Ilovenunavut on February 21, 2011
The problem is not the communication - it is the program. I think most people know what is in store because the transition process started since October last year. The COOP’s CEO has already announced that the new program will not decrease prices but we can expect greater selections and fresher produce. The net effect will be a price increase because of all the other items not covered under the new program. I am looking forward to my cheap green beans and broccoli; my weight loss program starts in about a month. This could be fun, territory on a diet. It could be a Win-Win.
#6. Posted by Keep it up on February 21, 2011
It has been amazing to see the amount of frustration being posted by residents of the north. I am also a resident of the North and I say “Do not trust the Government or the stores to keep things honest”
It is up to us as customers!!
Even after the April 1st start up date for the new program, we all know that we will continue to see “oops…pricing mistakes” and rotten,outdated food on the shelves.
#7. Posted by Sask Resident on February 21, 2011
Anyone seen the price of flour in Coop or Northmart? But I guess that four isn’t basic or nutritious! $53.99 for 10kg is a little steep!
#8. Posted by Quinn on February 21, 2011
As an outsider from southern Ontario, I do not understand why one food subsidy program stops in October 2010 and a new program will start in April 2011.  I feel for Baker’s comments posted where he/she asks what am I supposed to do from November to March without any subsidies?  Is there a program in place for this time frame or not?
As far as other peoples’ comments on the gov’t telling them what they can or cannot eat, I think the gov’t is moving in the right direction to provide healthy eating information and provide the subsidies to promote healthy eating.  Every individual then decides what they will eat or not eat.  Unfortunately, it is the poor who cannot afford to eat healthy.
#9. Posted by no name on February 22, 2011
The air freight cost for food is NOT the big issue, at least not here in Iqaluit.
First Air charges $2.96 per kilogram for shipping food.  But when I ordered Food Mail, my bill generally was about twice the cash register receipt.  Most of the difference was at the retailer end down south.  Box fee, cooler fee admin fee, etc.  It all added up to as much as their retail price for the groceries.
With the new Nutrition North program the air freight from Ottawa to Iqaluit will be subsidized $1,80 per kilogram.  So the freight cost will be $1,16 per kilogram. 
Do I expect the nutritious food in Iqaluit will cost $1,16 per kilogram more than in Ottawa?  In my dreams.  I expect the triple paperwork to be passed along to me in the form of even bigger handling fees.
#10. Posted by who me on February 22, 2011
There are 103 communities that are eligible for this food subsidy, according to Appendix “A”.
According to the INAC material, “Subject to a sufficient number of eligible applicants, approximately 40 applications in total will be approved in order to offer Northerners choices and flexibility.”
“choices and flexibility” - I wonder who thought up that line.  Most communities have at least one independently owned retailer and one corporate retailer.  So, the independents, the corporates and the southern suppliers are supposed to total 40.
Question 1.  Who knew that the time to apply was between January 1 and January 31? 
Question 2. How many Northern Retailers will there be in 103 communities?
Question 3. How many Southern Suppliers will there be for everone else to choose from?  How many of those will be someplace where shipping to MY northern community makes financial sense?

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