Lakehead University Retail Survey to Help Communities in Northern Canada

Chicken thighs Nishnawbe-Aski Nation
Prices further north in Ontario are far higher, and likely to rise yet more. Photo by Chris Kat

Northern Retail Practices Impact Life in Canada’s North

THUNDER BAY – Lakehead University researchers Kelly Skinner and Kristin Burnett are studying retail food practices in Northern Canada.

Prices, store policies and practices at grocery stores across Northern Canada impact the lives of people in communities across the north far more than most people realize. Unlike in southern cities where there are many stores, often in the North there can be one single store, a virtual monopoly.

Prices in the north can be far more expensive. Part of that of course is in the cost of shipping. Sometimes prices are just high for unknown or unexplained reasons.

There can also be instances where store management in the north can make decisions that impact families.

The federal government has created the Nutrition North program, that is designed to encourage and support healthy choices in the diets of people in Northern communities.


Prices for Groceries in the North are expensive

Water costing $45.99 for a six pack of bottles
Water costing $45.99 for a six pack of bottles

Federal Government Invests in Nutrition North

Mark Strahl, Member of Parliament for Chiliwack-Fraser Canyon and Parliamentary Secretary to the Honourable Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, today announced additional funding that will continue to improve access to healthy food in Northern communities.

Ensuring access to healthy, perishable foods is essential in building strong communities in Canada’s North. The Government will therefore make additional investments in the Nutrition North Canada (NNC) program. Enhanced funding, which fulfils a commitment made by Economic Action Plan 2014, will better serve eligible communities, support the program’s activities and ensure its long term sustainability as the consumption of nutritious food continues to grow.

Today’s announcement includes an increase of $11.3 million dollars to the Nutrition North subsidy budget in 2014-15, as well as a new 5% annual compound escalator for the subsidy budget component in future years, that will help the NNC program keep pace with the growing rate of demand for perishable, nutritious food. In total, during this year and next year, the Government of Canada will invest $133.7 million in direct subsidies for nutritious foods for Northerners.

In the coming months, the Government of Canada and the Nutrition North Canada Advisory Board will be engaging Northerners, retailers and suppliers on ideas to keep the program on a sustainable path. This process will help continue to improve this new and growing program.

Quick facts

  • The cost of the Revised Northern Food Basket for a family of four has dropped on average by 5.6%, or approximately $110 per month, between March 2011 and March 2013. According to Statistics Canada, food prices elsewhere in Canada increased by approximately 4% during the same time period.
  • The average annual volume of healthy food being shipped to northern remote communities has increased by approximately 25% during the first three years of the program.
    NNC is designed to help retailers and food suppliers improve the quality of and access to healthy food in eligible Northern communities. NNC was introduced in 2011 to address the challenges families in isolated northern communities were facing to access nutritious quality food.
  • This new funding will help the program to better serve 103 eligible communities as it will be used directly for food subsidies.
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