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One out of two Nunavummiut go hungry

“Listening to the local radio, there is a constant number of callers who want to borrow money for food”



If you asked 10 people in Nunavut whether they or someone in their household had gone without enough to eat in the past year because of a lack of money, five would say yes.

That means seven times as many people in Nunavut, per capita, have suffered from hunger than in Canada as a whole.

That information will not be news to the many Nunavummiut involved in breakfast and lunch programs for kids in school, the volunteer-organized food bank, or those who have attended a community feast or celebration and observed the hungry faces of many of the guests.

The situation may be worse in the communities where there are few jobs and food prices are high.

A former Pond Inlet resident composed an email in Iqaluit this past Wednesday, including a photo of a one-litre box of McCain’s orange juice selling for $21.69 in the Northern Store this summer.

In the same store, a 1.89 litre of Ocean Spray Cranberry Cocktail was selling for $41.99. Smart shoppers could opt for the much less healthy option of Kool-Aid: one tin of the sugary drink powder cost just $52.49 to produce 26 litres of juice.

“This is one of the major reasons why I’m afraid to move back home. Listening to the local radio, there is a constant number of callers who want to borrow money for food or simply ask for food,” she wrote. “When there is a shortage of caribou, watch out.”

The new hunger statistics appear in an article in the May, 2005 issue of Health Reports by Statistics Canada. It was calculated using data from the 2000-2001 Canadian Community Health Survey.

“Insufficient food — either quality or quantity — can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and even to serious health problems,” the article notes.

The same survey found that 14.7 per cent of Canadians said yes when asked if, because of a lack of money, in the previous year they or someone in their household had not eaten the quality or variety of the food they had wanted, had worried about not having enough to eat, or had actually not had enough to eat.

In Nunavut, 56 per cent of respondents said yes.

Twenty-eight per cent of respondents said yes in the next worst territory — the Northwest Territories, which also suffers from expensive food and too few jobs.

The Yukon was next, with 21 per cent of respondents saying yes.

Those who said yes to one of the three questions are considered to be living in “food insecure” households, of which there are many in Nunavut.

Hunger is directly related to income.

Sandra Omik, also originally of Pond Inlet, wrote a paper comparing food prices while she was a student at the Akitsiraq Law School in Iqaluit.

After looking at food prices in Pond Inlet, Victoria and Ottawa, she concluded that prices were, on average, three times higher than in the South.

Northern grocery stores import as many goods as possible by annual sealift, but when the supplies run out in June or July, prices can skyrocket until the next ship comes in.

“They run out of sugar, tea, pop…” Omik said. “When these products come in by air, they’re a lot more expensive.”

In almost every province, at least a quarter of residents of low- and middle-income households reported an instance of not having enough to eat in the past year, the report said.

In Nunavut, two-thirds (68 per cent) of such households reported an instance where there was not enough to eat.

In the Arctic territories, residents in higher income households were not immune to food shortages. Forty per cent of high-income Nunavut households went without enough food at least once in the past year, and 12 per cent of NWT households.
The survey, conducted from September 2000 to October 2001, does not include homeless people or aboriginal people living on Indian reserves who might also go hungry.

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