Federal government extends pandemic funding for northern food security

Federal Minister Dan Vandal at a Nutrition North funding announcment at the Inuvik Community Greenhouse on Aug. 15 2022. (Karli Zschogner/CBC)

Nutrition North program subsidies put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic will continue for at least two more years, says federal Minister of Northern Affairs Dan Vandal.

He made the announcement in Inuvik, N.W.T., on Monday, as part of a federal government announcement on how the $143.4 million earmarked for Nutrition North Canada from the 2021 budget will be spent.

“While Nutrition North Canada will not solve food security on its own, it helps northern and isolated communities develop integrated, culturally relevant, and made-in-the-North solutions to address food security,” the release reads in part.

Nutrition North Canada, a federal program that helps eligible northern and isolated communities in addressing local food security, now recognizes Beaufort Delta region communities as isolated, which makes them available for subsidies during spring break-up and winter freeze-up.

Vandal also said $36 million has been made available through the Harvesters Support Grant, and $60.9 million dollars will launch a new Community Foods Programs Fund.

Meanwhile, $1.5 million, to be doled out over two years, is set to go toward Nutrition North Canada’s Food Security Research Grant to help find ongoing and locally driven food security solutions.

Also over two years, $43 million will go toward the increased subsidy rates that were put in place by the Canadian government at the beginning of the pandemic.

A news release Monday said the funds also extend the retail subsidy to local food producers in eligible communities, for “eligible items that are sold or donated within the community, and to food banks and charitable organizations serving eligible communities.”

The funding is also set to go toward supporting “eligible communities in storing and distributing both country and market food within a community.”

The release said the expansion of the food security programs was “designed in collaboration with Indigenous partners,” and are meant to strengthen local food systems and community-led food security initiatives. It’s also aimed at promoting local food sovereignty.

“Indigenous and northern communities know how best to address local food security, and our government is continuing to work in partnership based on their priorities,” said Vandal.

“Enhancements announced today will help support communities in new ways, including direct support for community-led food activities, local food production, and food banks and charities serving eligible communities.

Community garden group eyes funding

Peter Clarkson, chair of the Inuvik Community Garden Society, which has greenhouse and hydroponics facility, said the organization will look into applying for the funding announced Monday.

Peter Clarkson, chair of Inuvik Community Garden Society. (Karli Zschogner/CBC)

“I think if the funding can make people more independent with their food and growing some of their own food, or maybe harvesting their own food –  local foods, country foods – I think that’s a good program,” he said.

He added it might also help eventually reduce the number of trucks bringing food up the Dempster Highway.

Clarkson said the greenhouse helps show youth that it’s possible to not rely entirely on store-bought food.

“For young kids to be able to see that you can grow things, you don’t just have to buy everything in a store, to be able to grow fresh vegetables, is really positive,” he said.

“Certainly the community greenhouse, we always need money for programs and for staffing and to promote people to grow their own vegetables… we’re looking forward to taking advantage of the funding.”

One program the greenhouse is working on is building raised beds for people to take home.

“Raised beds are very important because we need to get the soil out of the ground,” he said because permafrost makes the ground too cool.

“So if you can use raised beds, you can grow all sorts of things.”

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: New Canadian cancer strategy has focus on Inuit, First Nations and Métis people, CBC News

Finland: Finland’s elder care needs funding boost to meet Nordic standards: researcher, Yle News

Greenland: Greenland to reduce services amidst staffing shortages in health care system, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Fewer people suffering strokes in Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States: Indigenous students in Alaska get hands-on medical experience at nursing camp, Alaska Public Media

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