Nunavut organization calls for more country food and more money to support school food program

People prepare to distribute food at the Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre in Iqaluit. The centre’s co-executive director wants to see country food included in a national school food program. (Submitted by Rachel Blais)

Some Inuit organizations say there should be more funding and cultural consideration of country foods in a national school food program. 

On April 1, the federal government announced a new national school food program that would dedicate $1 billion to schools across the country over five years, making it the final G7 country to create a country-wide school food program.

The Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre is a charity in Iqaluit that works to combat food insecurity.

Co-executive director Joseph Murdoch-Flowers says that any support for hungry children is welcome, but he says $200 million a year across the entire country won’t go far enough, especially in Nunavut.  

“We know that Nunavut Inuit have the highest rates of food insecurity in the whole country and Nunavut Inuit also has the youngest population in the country so when you put those two together we see that the need for food programming in the territory is very high,” he said.

Joseph Murdoch-Flowers, co-executive director of the Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre, says it’s important for the new national food program to include country foods. (Natalie Pressman/CBC)

Few details have been released on how the school food program will be implemented, but Murdoch-Flowers said it’s important that the program include country foods.   

He said that matters for cultural relevance to the students, but also supporting local harvesters. 

Having traditional country foods in the school food program would help keep the funds in the North, as opposed to programs like Nutrition North that subsidize food shipped from southern parts of Canada. 

“So this is relying on food from outside the territory and it doesn’t support the local economy,” Murdoch-Flowers said. 

“In recognizing the value of country food, of food sovereignty for Inuit in Nunavut, it’s an opportunity to place value on that through putting money into the hands of the people driving the local economy.”

A national school food program is something that Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami has been calling on for years. 

In a 2023 report, ITK suggests an investment of $1.79 billion for Inuit Nunangat over 15 years. That would mean nearly $600 million in the same five year timeframe — or over half of the federal promise for Inuit communities alone. 

A spokesperson said in an email that before commenting on the new program, ITK will wait for more details from the federal budget being unveiled on April 16 to better understand how the program will include Inuit communities. 

The Department of Education did not respond to questions of how the territory will distribute funds across the territory or how it is considering including country food, but spokesperson Matthew Illaszewicz said in an email that the territory is working to “standardize and enhance” meals provided at each school.

Illaszewicz also said that representatives from Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, the Department of Family Services and the Department of Health will all help inform the program.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: External review of Nutrition North food subsidy program possible, minister says, CBC News

Natalie Pressman, CBC News

Natalie Pressman is a reporter with CBC North in Yellowknife. She can be reached at or on Twitter at @natpressman.

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