Northern food costs remain sky high

Some food experts are calling on the territorial and federal governments to take action against the rising cost of food in the North.

Some food experts are calling on the territorial and federal governments to take action against the rising cost of food in the North.

The cost of living is higher in Northern Canada, and food prices are especially vexing in some of the North's more remote communities.

The federal government has a program, known as Nutrition North Canada, designed to make healthy food more available to people living in remote places.

The program doesn't set prices for food, but rather tries to bring down the cost for consumers by giving retailers a transportation subsidy for certain key items

Price differences

But a quick CBC survey of food prices in various Northwest Territories communities shows there's still a lot of discrepancies.

CBC reporter Leila Beaudoin filled a grocery basket with five basic healthy food items — oranges, potatoes, milk, eggs and a loaf of bread — and compared what they cost in different NWT communities.

In Norman Wells, those five items add up to $34.41. In Tuktoyaktuk people pay the most out of any of the eleven communities surveyed, at $38.35.

Shoppers in Fort Resolution pay close to the average, at $32. In Fort Liard, you'll fork over $33.37 for those goods.

Tellingly, in Yellowknife, those same five staple foods are going to cost you less than $20.

Yellowknife customer Bill Reid says that's outrageous.

"I hope you can get a job at $140,000 a year," he says. "If you're living in a community you probably need $280,000 a year to survive."

Yellowknife cheapest

The price for a two-litre carton of milk across the territories ranged from $4.09 to $8.39, before tax. That latter figure is almost twice the price for a carton of milk in the capital.

Food research and poverty experts say the price discrepancies like that are especially hard on the poor, and puts them at even more of a disadvantage.

Food researcher and poverty expert Richard Matern says all levels of government need to do more to help.

"There needs to be a collaboration and a partnership between the local communities, the regional government and the federal government and that is how you can best negotiate a strategy," he says.

CBC News reached out to Nutrition North about why prices are still so high and varied across the North, but the agency did not reply to our request for comment.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.