Fix Broken Subsidies and Make Food Affordable for First Nations | Liam Massaubi

The first comprehensive study to analyze the effect of high food prices in northern Ontario communities suggests First Nations people living in remote northern Ontario communities need to spend more than half their income on food to meet basic nutritional needs. The report looked at food costs on three northern Ontario reservations -- Moose Factory, Fort Albany and Attawapiskat -- which are located in the Mushkegowuk territory, along the James Bay Coast.

The report released by Food Secure Canada, included contributions from researchers from Dalhousie University, the University of Waterloo, Lakehead University and Mount Saint Vincent University.

The researchers took a list of 67 basic food items such as bread, ground beef and peanut butter, which are all part of Health Canada's National Nutritious Food Basket (NNFB) that represents a healthy diet, and found that the average monthly cost for a family of four to purchase the list of items in the northern communities is around $1,900. In Toronto, those same items would only cost around $850 a month.

On-reserve households in Fort Albany must spend at least 50 per cent of their median monthly income just to buy food for a basic nutritious diet.

High food prices detailed in the report included $20 per pound of ground beef and almost $9 for three pounds of apples in Moose Factory. Also, nearly $11 for a bag of flour in Fort Albany. They also found that basic items we all take for granted such as cabbage and chicken drumsticks can't be found in any of these communities.

The researchers found that on-reserve households in Fort Albany must spend at least 50 per cent of their median monthly income just to buy food for a basic nutritious diet. The report said a "reasonable assumption" would suggest that Moose Factory and Attawapiskat must do so as well.

High food prices are nothing new to anyone in northern Canada. A 2014 report from the auditor general found the sky-high food prices can be attributed to transportation costs, a lack of competition and unreliable weather. These high costs force families to make difficult choices between food, hydro, gas for vehicles, basic costs of living, supporting clothing and needs of their children and unexpected bills or costs.

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