North

Study shows cost of food varies greatly across Yukon

A study by the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition shows significant differences in grocery cost in communities with grocery stores.

'Significant action' needs to be taken to ensure equitable food access, says lead researcher

The Co-Op grocery store in Old Crow, Yukon. (Karen McColl/CBC)

A study by the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition shows the amount of money Yukoners spend on groceries varies greatly depending on where they live in the territory. 

The organization tasked researchers with gathering data at grocery stores across Yukon last June to determine the average weekly cost of a basic, healthy diet. 

Researchers determined the costs of 67 food items in the "revised northern food basket," a survey tool developed by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.

The coalition says the foods represent local dietary preferences and contain sufficient nutrients for a healthy lifestyle.

Each community profiled in the study has a grocery store with at least 75 per cent of the foods listed the basket available for sale. Communities without access to a full-service store weren't included.

Major differences 

The study was based on a reference family of four. 

According to the study, if the family were from Whitehorse, and wanted to eat a healthy diet as outlined in the food basket, their grocery bill would be $274.78 per week.  

That same family in Dawson City would have to spend $303.56 per week. 

If they lived in Old Crow, the territory's only community without road access, they'd be paying a whopping $500.24 a week.

"That's after accounting for the Nutrition North Canada program subsidies," Kendall Hammond, the study's lead researcher, told Sandi Coleman, host of A New Day on CBC Radio.  "So that suggests there's significant action that needs to be taken to ensure equitable access to food." 

This graphic from the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition shows an estimate of the weekly cost of healthy foods in most Yukon communities. (Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition)

The study shows significant differences between communities that are relatively close together as well.

In Carcross, that reference family would pay $426.33 per week at the local store, despite being only about 70 km from Whitehorse. 

"That sort of speaks to all the different factors that might influence the costs in a community, whether it's transportation, or competition, or costs to operate a specific store," said Hammond.

"We know that a lot of people who live in communities like Carcross and other communities in the territory come to Whitehorse regularly to do their shopping."

Taking another look 

The report recommends tracking changes in food cost over time, across the territory.

Other recommendations included: addressing affordability challenges related to cost of basic goods and housing and more regular monitoring of healthy eating habits in the territory. 

Hammond said, the study acknowledged a variety of other ways Yukoners accessed food "outside the market system," including hunting and traditional foods. 

The report recommends conducting more research on the role those methods play in helping Yukoners meet their nutritional needs.

With files from Sandi Coleman

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