Mr. Speaker, I am rising to follow up on a question I asked back in May about the UN special rapporteur on the right to food.
It is a bit ironic that I am doing this on October 1, because this is the date that the changes in the nutrition north program and food subsidy list take place. As of today, a number of goods will be dropped from the subsidy list, including a number of canned goods, pasta, rice, coffee, tea, diapers and so on.
Why would we continue to raise this matter? Certainly the costs of some fresh and perishable goods have gone down, but I think the reality is that when we look at issues facing many people who live in the north, we see they are facing poverty and unemployment.
In the Inuit health survey from 2007-08, I want to read a couple of statistics because it highlights the fact that poverty is a very real issue for people who are trying to buy nutritious food.
In the north 78% of homes had children, and of those homes 40% were crowded, whereas only 3% of non-aboriginal people lived in crowded housing.
They say food insecurity is a problem in homes in Nunavut communities. Fewer than one third of the households reported that they had enough food to eat, and 35% of households reported severe food insecurity—71.4% of households with children were food insecure. Unemployment, low income and high food costs were the main reasons for food insecurity.
More than 75% of the households shared their country food with others in their community, and that is an important matter because we know the subsidies for country food are important and yet there is very little uptake on them.
They go on to say in the survey that Nunavut households spend more on food and shelter than any other Canadian household. The average household in Nunavut spent $1,875 per month on food. For households with children, the monthly food bill was $1,992.
This compares to the average Canadian household, outside of the north, where they only spent $609 per month. So we can see that for some households it is more than three times the cost in the north that it is for other Canadian households.
People in the north are not sitting on their hands just waiting for the government to work with them, to help make food affordable. There is a Facebook page called Feeding My Family. There are thousands of people who are on this. Today in a story, Becky said that:
we need to encourage our local stores to develop policies for how they handle outdated, rotting and expired foods...and at the same time, start educating ourselves on the purpose and limitations of best before dates.
That has been a bit of an issue up there, about what a best before date is.
This would be a good opportunity for the GN to get involved...through hosting informational sessions in cooperation with local stores. Community information-sharing like this doesn't even have to cost anything, it just takes a group of people willing to get together to learn from each other. That's where it starts.
A posting from September 18, and again it is an example of people taking charge of what is going on in the north, reads: Looking for volunteers, can you help?
Feeding My Family is looking for volunteers to write down prices of 26 grocery items that are normally found in grocery stores in the North. Our goal is to monitor the prices of dried goods and non-perishables that will no longer be subsidized by NNC after October 1, 2012 to see how much the price will increase if our stores must fly these products into our communities. We'd like to get prices from as many Northern communities as possible, specifically those participating in Nutrition North Canada.
There is a number of issues. First of all, there is the fact that people simply do not have enough money to buy the nutritious food they need, and then there is the fact that people are very concerned about what the changes in the system, the subsidies, will do as of October 1.
I guess my question is: How will the government work with northerners to make sure they do have access to affordable, quality food?