Yukon Community Seeks Exemption From Canada’s Nutrition North Program

The Old Crow community want to stick with the now defunct Food Mail Program, which they say helped small and large retailers

The federal government is implementing its new Nutrition North Program, which subsidizes the cost of transporting healthy food items to remote northern communities. (CBC)Yukon’s representative on a federal advisory panel on the Nutrition North food subsidy program says she will lobby for her community, Old Crow, to be exempt from the program altogether.

Kathie Nukon of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation in Old Crow said she is not happy with changes being proposed to the federal program, which was known as the Food Mail Program until last year.

“I’ve asked that because Old Crow is the only community in Yukon that has benefited from this food mail program … to try to have that new program to fit the needs of the people here in Old Crow,” Nukon told CBC News.

The Food Mail Program subsidized the costs of transporting grocery items to remote northern communities, like Old Crow, that are cut off from regular road and water access.

Under the old program, businesses and consumers paid a fixed price for subsidized groceries, while the federal Indian and Northern Affairs Department covered the difference on variable costs such as air shipping.

But under the Nutrition North program, which focuses on subsidizing the costs of health food, the subsidy will instead go to participating retailers, which in turn will negotiate their own freight rates with airlines.

Concerned with choice

Retailers must sign up to participate in the Nutrition North Program. The deadline for retailers to apply was on Jan. 31.

Nukon, who sits on the advisory panel for Nutrition North, said people in Old Crow worry that the new program could take away their ability to choose which stores they can order groceries from.

Residents fear that none of Whitehorse stores they’ve ordered groceries from in the past will sign on to Nutrition North, leaving them with no choice but to shop at the only store in Old Crow, the Northern Store.

“They put a lot of unhealthy items on the shelves, and it’s not good for the community,” Nukon said.

Nukon said she will push for an exemption that would allow Old Crow to continue operating under the old Food Mail Program.

A spokesperson for the Indian and Northern Affairs Department told CBC News that several Yukon retailers have applied to take part in Nutrition North. However, officials would not say which stores have signed on until their applications have been finalized.

CBC News

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