Home Read Our Blog February 2015 Food Insecurity in the North is a Canadian Public Health Emergency

Food Insecurity in the North is a Canadian Public Health Emergency

Food Insecurity in the North is a Canadian Public Health Emergency
The need is high and resources are scarce.
In Canada’s three territories, 1 in every 5 households skips meals because there isn’t enough food in the house, or eats suboptimal food because they can’t afford better. This has drastic consequences for the health of northerners.
 
In southern Canada, the cost of food is among the lowest in the world. Despite this fact, 850,000 Canadians access a food bank each month just to make ends meet. In the North, particularly outside the major cities, the cost of food can be astronomical. The high cost of food, a lack of job opportunities, and decreasing consumption of traditional foods like caribou combine to create a serious and pressing public health emergency.  

Suddenly, Canadians are paying attention to food security in the north
Food security in the north has become, seemingly overnight, the issue of the day. We heard about people foraging in the dump in Rankin Inlet, where the food bank remains as busy as ever. Groups have popped up around the country to buy food and send it directly to northern families. Here at Food Banks Canada, we are being contacted almost daily by northerners looking for advice on how to set up a food bank.
 
Food Banks Canada and its network support several food banks in the territories, though we are far from being able to meet the existing need. We have increased our capacity to serve the north, but we have a long way to go. We also understand that food banks are not enough, and in some communities they may not be the answer at all.
 
We need to harness the positive energy
Two things need to happen if the current jump in attention and activity on northern food security is to result in lasting change: first, groups need to start working together in a cohesive way. Second, we need leadership and active interventions by territorial and federal governments. If these two key elements don’t happen, there may be small improvements – but not widespread change.
 
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