A shameful situation in Nunavut

The price of junk-food, chips, pop and cookies is only slightly higher than the prices in our local grocery stores.

Marco Terwiel

I last wrote about the shameful food situation In Nunavut. There are a number of things that need to be changed simultaneously if we want to see any permanent improvement.

If you would walk into any of the two supermarkets in Rankin Inlet, you would gasp, not only because of the prices for the staples there, but also the selection. For some reason or another the price of junk-food, chips, pop and cookies is only slightly higher than the prices in our local grocery stores.

But it is quite a different story when buying fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. For instance, three pounds  of oranges will cost you $9.89 in Rankin Inlet compared to $1.99 in Toronto. A plastic jar of cranberry juice will set you back $10.49 and orange peppers are $12.59 a pound.

It therefore does not come as a surprise the area devoted to the healthy fresh food is quite small in sharp contrast to the large section with shelves full of somewhat less expensive processed food and an abundance of cheap junk food.

Even if you want to prepare a simple spaghetti dinner for four consisting of pasta, ground  beef and tomato sauce, you pay $19.89 for the ingredients. In the south, you pay $7.43 for the same.

One of the compounding problems is that many do not even know how to prepare a dinner like that and have to rely completely canned or on store-bought prepared meals to be warmed up in a microwave oven.

Despite the widespread poverty, many house-holds do have a microwave oven, but that really is no surprise because without one they could not even eat the processed meals.

There is a Federal Food Mail program meant to subsidize the price of transport for food bought in the south and airmailed to the recipients. Recently that program has been totally overhauled, and from what I gather, not for the better, making access to fresh and healthy food more complicated.

Close to half the population has an income far below the standard Canadian poverty level and receives some form of social assistance.

When the food prices are, in general, two or three times higher than in the south of our country, the result is that there are a lot of poorly nourished and really hungry people.

There are no food banks like we have in the Lower Mainland.

However, there is fortunately still a sense of community, and when a hunter goes out and is lucky to shoot a caribou, seal or walrus, the meat gets shared with those in need.

I have noticed the situation gets worse the last week to 10 days before the next welfare cheques arrive. One of the reasons for that is the lack of budgeting skills. Many adults will buy cigarettes at $18 a pack, smoke a pack a day, and when the money runs out, there is no food in the house. That sad situation applies to up to 30 per cent of the homes, and the children are sent off to school without breakfast. Thankfully, there is a breakfast program in most settlements and the food is reasonably nutritious, but still the situation is far from ideal when there is nothing to eat the rest of the day.

Less than 100 years ago, food security involved a diet of traditional food sources, which were high in nutritional value, such as fish, seal, caribou, musk ox, whale and walrus. People really did not have to rely on an income other than to buy some hunting and fishing gear and some staples.

At that time, quality and quantity were never an issue. However, today the rapidly increasing population and very noticeable climate changes, combined with the loss of many of their traditional survival skills have resulted in a desperate situation for many.

Add to that the social ills of irresponsible gambling in the form of TV bingo and abuse of alcohol among all too many Inuit and a bad situation gets even worse.

Next time I will suggest a number of possible approaches to remedy this unacceptable condition among our fellow Canadians.

 

Dr. Marco Terwiel is a retired family physician who lives in Maple Ridge.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

Ridge Meadows Hospital executive director an “out-of-the-box” thinker

Rich Dillon brings years of valuable experience with Vancouver Coastal Health

Maple Ridge volunteers honoured for decades of service

Community Services held special ceremonies for volunteers John Work and Rodger White

LETTER: Horgan has gall wasting taxpayer money amid COVID

Senior upset by election call at a time when she can’t even afford her prescriptions

OUR VIEW: Election could well backfire on Horgan

Are voters angry enough to cast NDP out, after sending us to the polls in the middle of a pandemic?

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

End of CERB means uncertainty for some, new system for others

As of a week ago, the CERB had paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people

Horgan, Wilkinson trade barbs over MSP premiums, health care at campaign stops

Horgan called a snap election for Oct. 24 earlier this week

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

VIDEO: COVID won’t dampen Lower Mainland woman’s Halloween spirit

Langley’s Tanya Reid posted video offering suggestions of how trick-or-treating might look for her

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

Most Read