What Will it Take to Make Real Progress on Northern Food Security

Northern Canadians face highly elevated levels of food insecurity. Particularly among First Nations, Métis and Inuit populations, a combination of low income, the high cost of store-bought foods, and decreased access to traditional foods has contributed to levels of food insecurity that are nothing short of a public health emergency. The recent report Aboriginal Food Security in Northern Canada: An Assessment of the State of Knowledge, published by the Council of Canadian Academies, presents clear and incontrovertible evidence of this unacceptable situation in northern communities. Whether one approaches the issue from a moral, pragmatic, or rights-based perspective, it is clear that more needs to be done to increase food security in northern Canada. This paper provides a brief overview of the evidence, and presents a number of policy recommendations for federal, provincial and territorial governments. These recommendations extend from an understanding of poverty, decreasing access to traditional foods, and the high cost of store-bought foods as key causes of food insecurity, and include the following:

1. Expansion and coordination of information on the cost of food in the north;

2. Increasing our knowledge of the drivers of the high cost of food in the north;

3. Increasing support for the consumption of traditional foods;

4. Expanding and improving the Nutrition North Canada subsidy;

5. Replacing social assistance with a basic income administered through the tax system.

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