Increased Nutrition North subsidies take effect in Nunavut

“The impact of this investment is significant and makes nutritious foods more affordable for our customers”

Increased Nutrition North subsidies kicked in on May 1 on many food items and other supplies, such as disposable diapers, in Nunavut. (File photo)

By Jane George

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.

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(11) Comments:

  1. Posted by Andrew on

    Not sure what the situation is in Nunavut, but I can tell you that the store I work at in Northern Ontario is currently shipping tons of orders north to fly-in reserves as I hear food supplies are low. I’ve been told that shelves are empty at many Northern stores, causing residents to look south to us to order and ship basic goods north. Our small town store seems to be doing more for northern communities than their own local stores. Maybe North West should look into this…

  2. Posted by Stolen Subsidy on

    NNC subsidy is a massive scam perpetrated by the major retailers in the north.

    In the old program anyone could buy from any store in the south and ship north via Canada post food mail at the same freight rate. Retailers also got the exact same rate, it didn’t matter how big or how small their business with the North was. Now there is a fixed rate of subsidy for each community that is generally about 1/2 the freight rate that the community‘s main carrier (Calm Air or Canadian North) charge to the general public. Not coincidentally this rate is approximately the “negotiated “ rate that the major retailers have with these airlines.

    Any other random retailer from the south now cannot compete because they do not have the same favourable rates. Come on politicians, let’s get northern consumers on this NNC Advisory panel and replace panel members that are only there to serve the interest of the national retailers or airlines and start passing these subsidies on to the shopper as they were intended and not to the retailer and airlines where they are going now.

  3. Posted by Sam on

    I am not defending calmair or Canadian north,but the Nwc own their own airline and fly their own cargo into NUnavut that is where the issue is and set their own rates,cannot blame airlines,they are held to ransom.

  4. Posted by Shopper on

    The title is a little misleading, it should be a increase subsidies for ACL and Northwest company.

    This is a scam for these stores, they set their price for goods then add the subsidy but by setting up their prices to maximize their profits.

    Federal government needs to do a major review and make changes to this multi million dollar program to make sure they are getting the bang for their money and that the people are actually benefiting from this program.
    A much better program existed the Food Mail Program, people ordered from stores down south with southern prices and the freight was covered under this program which made ACL and Northern/Northmart to lower their prices and have weekly sales to compete.
    Now these stores are making record profits off this program and off of the people that need subsidies the most.
    Here in Nunavut were food security is a huge issue, most house holds do not have enough food to feed their families these stores are making record profits since this nutrition North program started. People up here are not receiving the benefits from this program, it is being past on to the stores.
    How can this be changed?

  5. Posted by Putuguk on

    NWC and ACL are the primary food retailers in Nunavut, and Canadian North is now our only common air carrier. These companies do business with each other to maintain retail food outlets that are available in almost every community to anyone by simply walking through the front door and walking home with their purchases.

    Any food subsidy program has to focus on the food insecure. Not people in Nunavut that have enough to eat but would like to enjoy lower cost food.

    A food insecure person probably does not have a credit card to pay for goods outside of her community, or is able to open an account with a southern retailer, spare money to pay for air freight on top of groceries, a phone for dialing long distance to reach out to southern retailers, a snowmobile or atv to get out to the airport freight office to pick up a food order, or a computer, email account and internet service to otherwise make remote purchases. If they could afford all these other things, they might not be food insecure in the first place.

    These were the main stumbling blocks identified for poor, food insecure individuals accessing the Food Mail program. These barriers remain the same. Therefore it is left to Nutrition North to lower the cost of food at its most common point of sale – within the walls of community based retail outlets.

    So, for those that complain that Nutrition North is benefiting the 2 primary food retailers and air carriers how would you provide subsidy access for food insecure individuals and families to retailers that are hundreds if not thousands of kilometres away?

    And, consider that whatever extraordinary efforts necessary to link northern food insecure customers to southern retail competitors would also have a cost. Think hiring someone to take orders in each community, a vehicle and physical location in each community to make deliveries and take in shipments, admin to track orders and make payments on behalf of someone else. Would those costs be worth it based on any presumed savings in the actual cost of food buying direct from the south? I highly doubt it.

    Sure NWC, ACL and CN can conceivably game the system. If that is a real risk, people need to think of a reasonable alternative. Going back to a Food Mail style subsidy could actually hurt the food insecure.

    • Posted by Karboneater on

      As usual Mr. Putuguk, bang-on on your assessment. you can’t be a politician, scientist, doctor, lawyer or a judge, you just have to much common sense and tuned into reality in your thoughts and comments thought-out the years. Your either a school teacher or a high ranking mining executive? By the way, removal of FoodMail and eventual replacement Nutrition North Canada was coerced/forced upon Nunavut and Federal politicians through Resolution made by NAM to do away w/ Foodmail because of truck tires, cigarettes, beer and other items shipped that had nothing to do food security.

    • Posted by Frank on

      Yes! Good and thoughtful analysis. Much appreciated.

  6. Posted by S.Parameswaran on

    Vegetables are in short supply. Please
    Provide as far as possible the following:-
    1. Thai Green peppers long
    2. Ash Plantain ( For cooking))
    3. Curry Leaves
    4. Cassava
    5. Drumsticks or Long Beans
    Thank you

  7. Posted by Deborah on

    Lets see if prices go down or stay the same. And who do we notify.

  8. Posted by Asif maiarse on

    Time to dig out the old receipts and compare.. before nutrition north we never ever paid the prices ridiculous they say we saved via nutrition north.. NWC profits enough to have bought their own airline and “pay” their own airline for the shipment of freight to northern communities.. its ots own company but owned and operated by NWC..filling their pot of gold furthermore..

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