Increased Nutrition North subsidies take effect in Nunavut
“The impact of this investment is significant and makes nutritious foods more affordable for our customers”
The cost of many types of food and other supplies in Nunavut is expected to go down on Friday, May 1.
That’s thanks to an additional $25 million for Nutrition North, announced on April 14 by the federal government.
This money means an increase in the program’s subsidy for basic and essential goods to address growing concerns about food security, and the inclusion of additional personal hygiene materials for all northern communities to better deal with COVID-19.
“The impact of this investment is significant and makes nutritious foods more affordable for our customers. In our stores, starting May 1, customers can expect to see lower prices,” said an April 28 update from the North West Co., which was sent to municipal officials across Nunavut and shared with Nunatsiaq News.
The increased Nutrition North subsidies are expected to lower prices in the Arctic Co-operatives Ltd. stores, but ACL spokesperson Duane Wilson said he was unable to discuss the adjustments immediately due to the positive COVID-19 test result from Pond Inlet, where the Tununiq Sauniq Co-op “will be closed temporarily pending direction regarding recommended safe operating conditions,” the ACL said in a statement.
“Supporting this community, the co-op and the Government of Nunavut is our immediate priority right now,” Wilson said in an email.
The boosts to Nutrition North mean that, as of Friday, May 1, the subsidy increase of $1 per kilogram on Level 1 items will lower the cost of fresh fruits, vegetables, bread, eggs, fresh meat and diapers.
A 50 cents/kg subsidy increase on Level 7 items will reduce the cost of frozen fruits and vegetables, fresh milk, infant formula and baby food.
At Northern and NorthMart stores, the increased subsidies mean a two-kilogram package of macaroni will cost $2 less and a loaf of Best Value white bread will cost 60 cents less.
The NWC said that it had already reduced prices in early April at its stores by up to 40 per cent for a 60-day period, and may consider extending that.
Disposable diapers, cheese slices, apples, potatoes and coffee are among the items that will see price reductions.
“Many basics are well in stock, like Kraft Dinner, Klik, eggs, lard and tea,” the NWC said, adding that it communicates daily with suppliers, sourcing usual items and finding acceptable alternatives.
“There are still challenges, but we see definite improvements and expect this trend to continue,” the NWC said.
The availability of “hard-to-find items” is also improving, the NWC said: “We’ve received multiple truckloads of toilet paper, our bleach vendor is now in good shape, and we’ve secured a quantity of hand sanitizer, as quickly as we receive these items we’ll get them out to the stores.”
Meanwhile, staff will continue to receive a pay top-up until the end of May “in recognition of their hard work and extra efforts.”
These extra efforts include store cleaning and sanitizing. Staff are hand washing every 30 minutes, when putting on or taking off gloves, and whenever switching tasks.
Staff are also cleaning high-touch surfaces like PIN pads and counters.
“We practise physical distancing. We ask all customers and staff to stay six feet (two metres) apart. Unfortunately, on busy days, customers may have to wait outside before shopping, as we cannot allow the store to get too crowded,” the NWC said.
Masks have not been required, but “we expect more staff to wear masks or face shields for specific tasks in the near future,” the company said.
Stores have personal protective equipment, “with more on the way.”
Mike Beaulieu, a vice-president with the NWC, told Nunatsiaq News that encouraging customers to maintain social distancing in the stores remains a challenge.