Nunavut hardest-hit by food insecurity: StatsCan
Josh Elliott, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, March 25, 2015 9:07AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, March 25, 2015 3:19PM EDT
When it comes to buying the variety and quantity of food they need, Nunavut residents have it harder than anyone else in the country.
According to a new report from Statistics Canada, Nunavut has the highest rate of food insecurity: 36.7 per cent.
That number is more than four times the Canadian average of 8.3 per cent, according to the StatsCan numbers recorded from 2007 to 2012.
Food insecurity means being unable to afford the proper quantity and variety of foods required to eat healthy.
Canada's territories occupied the top three spots on StatsCan's food insecurity list, with the Northwest Territories ranking second at 13.7 per cent, followed by the Yukon at 12.4 per cent.
The sky-high cost of food in Canada's North has long been an issue, with many basic food items selling for as much as 10 times the price they would go for in other parts of the country.
Northerners pay far more for food basics than Canadians elsewhere, despite efforts by the federal government's Nutrition North program to subsidize some of the shipping costs that add to the prices of food.
The Facebook group Feeding My Family encourages Northerners to share photos of the outrageous prices they find at the grocery store. One post from February shows a carton of baby formula listed at $55.99. Other recent photos show rice on sale for $24.19, 10 kilograms of flour tagged at $47.99, and pork shoulders listed at more than $50 each.
The federal government has come under fire in recent months for its handling of the Nutrition North program. Critics slammed Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt and Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq in December, after video surfaced of people scavenging for food at a dump in Nunavut.
Valcourt handles the Nutrition North program, while Aglukkaq's home riding is in Nunavut.
Nova Scotia had the highest food insecurity rate among Canada's provinces at 11.9 per cent between 2011 and 2012. Prince Edward Island ranked second among the provinces at 10.6 per cent, followed closely by New Brunswick at 10.2 per cent.
Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest rate in Canada at 7.6 per cent, while Manitoba, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia all ranged between 7.9 and 8.2 per cent.
Food insecurity rates were higher among adults than children, with about eight per cent of adults and five per cent of children unable to access the food they need to eat healthy.
StatsCan found households with children showed higher rates of food insecurity. Adults also tended to sacrifice their own nutrition for the sake of their children, forgoing some foods so their kids could eat healthier.
Low-income households and households that relied on government benefits had more difficulty paying for their food, StatsCan said.
The national food insecurity rate held steady at about eight per cent, StatsCan said.