VANCOUVER – If you think grocery costs where you live are high, chances are they are nothing like the cost of food in Canada’s north.
Story continues below
Prices in Nunavut and the other territories, can be double or triple what consumers in the southern provinces pay. According to the Canadian government, necessities such as perishable foods must be flown in to these remote communities, and that cost, along with electricity, maintenance and food storage costs, drives up the price of food on the shelves.
In April last year, two litres of milk cost $7.99 in Old Crow, Yukon, compared to about $3.50 in the Lower Mainland, B.C.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2009, the last year for which data is available, the average household expenditure on food in Canada was $7,262. However, in the Yukon it was $7,496, in the Northwest Territories it was $9,509 and $14,815 in Nunavut. The high prices also make it more difficult for those living in the north to eat a nutritious diet.
This crisis spurred a woman who lives on Vancouver Island to try and make a difference in these communities. Jennifer Gwilliam has started a Facebook group called Helping Our Northern Neighbours and along with more than 7,500 others, has been sending care packages to families. Members are matched with a family in the north and must fulfill their promise to send a package, either once or by becoming a family sponsor.
The organization has many local chapters, all dedicated to sending food and other necessities to Canada’s north. Among the most-needed items are flour, cereal, toilet paper, shampoo, baby food, cheese, rice and winter clothes.
People have been sharing the prices of some food items on a Facebook page called Feeding My Family. Some of the items featured are a $200 turkey, a jug of orange juice for $26.79 and a pack of Ritz crackers for $14.99.
The federal government does have a food program to help those living in the north, called the Nutrition North Canada program. They conducted an audit of the program between April 1, 2011, and June 30, 2014 and made a number of recommendations for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada to make the program more efficient.
If you would like to help, you can contact Gwilliam through the Helping Our Northern Neighbours page and request a family. You will then be contacted and matched up with a family. To learn more about it, check out the files section of the page.
Global News has reached out to Gwilliam for comment, but did not receive a response by time of publication.