A quarter of Nunavut's population faces moderate to severe food insecurity, report says

'There's a big alarm bell ringing and I don't think the federal government or any type of government is listening,' says Leesee Papatsie, creator of the Feeding My Family Facebook group.

'There's a big alarm bell ringing,' says Feeding My Family's Leesee Papatsie

Being food secure, means having access to affordable, safe, and healthy food. (Angela Hill/CBC)

Nunavut is "by far" the most food insecure region of Canada, according to a new report from the Conference Board of Canada.

One quarter of the territory's population self-reports as moderately to severely food insecure, while just over half of Nunavut's Inuit population at least occasionally goes hungry.

Nunavut is the only jurisdiction to receive a D grade in the category of household food security for youth and adults age 12 and up. 

All other provinces and territories received an A, except for the Northwest Territories which got a B.

Graph showing the percentage of food insecurity in provinces and territories. (Conference Board of Canada)

More than half of Inuit are food insecure

Nunavut also ranked the lowest on Indigenous food security, with 51 per cent of Inuit reporting moderate to severe food insecurity.

That compares to the roughly one in five, or 18 per cent, of other Canadian Indigenous populations reporting food insecurity, which in turn is twice as high as the Canadian average.

Leesee Papatsie, creator of the Feeding My Family Facebook group, is well aware of food security issues in Nunavut.

"There's a big alarm bell ringing and I don't think the federal government or any type of government is listening."

She says the Nutrition North food program needs to be reexamined, citing that fact that Amazon is able to provide some groceries cheaper than subsidized groceries available in stores.

Climate change, thinning ice

"Canada's Food Report Card for 2016" was released May 18 by the research-focused not-for-profit. 
Study author Jean-Charles Le Vallée says he hopes the report will bring more attention to the issue of food insecurity in the North. (Conference Board of Canada)

It credits effects of climate change, like thinning ice cover and altered animal migration routes, as factors affecting Inuit food security.

It also notes, "the eroding interest in, and increasing costs of, hunting traditional or country food" as a factor.

The report does not include recommendations on what action can be taken to improve food insecurity. 

Jean-Charles Le Vallée, one of the report's authors, described moderate food insecurity as conditions where someone reduces the amount or quality of the food they are eating. Severe insecurity means they are making major changes to their diet. 

Le Vallée says he hopes it will raise awareness of the North's issue with food security in the rest of Canada. 

He also says he wants to see it serve as a tool to help create a national food policy—something Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has asked the minister of agriculture to develop.

Limited data portrait of Nunavut

The report card graded provinces on the prevalence of water contaminates, food emergency-preparedness, alcohol consumption, frequency of food-borne illnesses and other indexes.

But the data for Nunavut is not available in most cases. 

The Conference Board surveyed industry and consumers and pulled information with a focus on food for this report, but data collection centred on the provinces.

Where data was available from Statistics Canada, the Conference Board did include the territories in its comparisons. 

"We did want to highlight particular issues of significance, in this case food insecurity in the North, because it's greatest in Nunavut," Le Vallée said. 

A graph showing the 2014 rates of high blood pressure across the provinces and territories. (Conference Board of Canada)

However, the report concludes that Nunavut and the Northwest Territories have the lowest prevalence of high blood pressure among all provinces and territories.

This is the Conference Board of Canada's first food report card comparing the provinces and territories to each other.

Overall, the report found approximately 4 million Canadians faced food insecurity.

With files from Michael Salomonie