People in Coral Harbour held a protest against high food prices during the lunch hour Thursday outside the community's Northern Store, and then at the Co-op.

Dozens of people held signs with slogans such as "Ground Beef $16.99" and "Where is the subsidized food?"

"It hit everyone in the community. We had practically everyone in Coral show (up). From kids in school to young adults, all the way to our elders," said Simeon Dion, one of the protest’s organizers.

Dion said the Northern store’s manager tried to hand out coffee and doughnuts, but nobody wanted them.


Protest organizers say a manager from the Northern Store tried to hand out coffee and doughnuts, but nobody wanted them. (Courtesy of Simeon Dion)

Late last year the Northwest Company said the Nutrition North Canada program would save customers $6 million a year on foods like fruits and vegetables.

Nutrition North Canada is a federal food shipping subsidy meant to drive down the cost of healthy foods. It replaced the Food Mail program in 2010.

But residents have complained that food prices have gone up. Researchers have said 70 per cent of Inuit households with young children in Nunavut are food insecure — meaning that at times they don't have enough food because they can't afford it.

Michael McMullen, executive vice-president of the North West Company, said factors such as electricity and transportation costs have affected prices.

"Unfortunately no part of Canada is protected from price inflation overall so we have had a lot of fuel rider surcharges going up and so we are susceptible," he said from Winnipeg. "Those factors are in play there."

McMullen said it's up to the politicians, not grocery stores, to address the cost of living and income support.

Nunavut MP and federal health minister Leona Aglukkaq released a statement following the protests:

"The program was designed to inform and empower consumers by requiring retailers to show that the subsidy is being passed on … If Nunavummiut believe this isn't happening then it is completely understandable that they are voicing their concerns."

She recommended people report their concerns to the Nutrition North Advisory Board.