Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Jean Crowder MP (NDP Nanaimo-Cowichan) Aboriginal Affairs Critic on the need to fix Nutrition North

Jean Crowder MP (NDP Nanaimo-Cowichan) spoke about the need to fix the Nutrition North program
- November 6, 2012 - Critic Areas, Aboriginal Affairs  

November 6th, 6:50 p.m.
"...Mr. Speaker, when I last raised this question I asked the government what it was going to do about the nutrition north program, specifically whether it would commit to fixing the program given that it is not working for northerners.
I want to refer to the Feeding My Family Facebook group , which has been working hard to bring awareness of the fact that the high cost of food is preventing many northerners from living healthy, happy and productive lives.
They have some suggestions for how to tackle this problem.
Their current objectives include encouraging northerners to empower themselves to create independence from within the people at the grass roots level; unifying people across the north to share one voice; encouraging government policy-makers and retailers to find better ways of lowering the cost of food, given that Nutrition North Canada is not doing enough; encouraging new food suppliers to operate in the north in order to increase competition and lower prices; encouraging improvements in food quality through better inventory control, such as removing inedible and rotting food from store shelves, proper food shipping and handling, and reducing transit time for perishable foods; encouraging the establishment of more food banks; and working with government and other NGOs to improve the overall quality of life for northerners.
I do not have time to go over all the statistics, but according to recent reports, residents spend an average of $14,815 per year on food, or 25% of their total expenditures. This compares to an average of $7,262 in Canada overall. One of the other problems is that the few food banks that are around the north have seen an 18% increase in use over the past year, according to Hunger Count.
Hunger Count also indicates that it has some solutions the government might want to look at. In its report it says:
 It is clear that a new model for household food security in the North is necessary. Although there is much innovation and experimentation at the community level, a new model requires investment, which is sorely lacking in many northern communities.
It recommends:
The creation of a federal Northern Food Security Innovation Fund, to help jumpstart and sustain community-based, community-led food initiatives across the North;
The establishment and adequate funding of comprehensive school breakfast programs across the territories;
Significant investment in community-building infrastructure in northern communities, including the construction or rehabilitation of community-identified resources like community centres and community freezers.
Given the fact that the price of food in the north is still far beyond what Canadians in the south pay, will the government pay attention to what northerners are asking for and commit to working closely with them to invest in the programs and services that northerners are proposing would help address the high food prices?
November 6th, 6:55 p.m.
Mr. Speaker, that still does not deal with the fact that many northern communities are facing prices that are more than double what southerners pay.
In the statistics that came out from January 1 to March 31, country food was the least subsidized food. Only 192 kilograms of country food was distributed to communities at a total cost of $218. Yet country food is often talked about as being an important staple. In a question on the order paper I asked the government what it was doing about country food, and it indicated that Health Canada and the CFIA have said that there are no legal implications for applying a federal government subsidy to country food that is certified by a territorial or provincial regulatory authority, as long as the food remains within the same territory or province in which it was certified.
The government says that the program is prepared to consider subsidizing traditional country food, subject to these criteria. It has also indicated that the departments will continue to support access to country food with a view toward bringing together the relevant actors. What is the government doing to improve access to country foods?..."


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