Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut February 11, 2014 - 10:31 am

More hunters would mean fewer hungry people: report

Report calls for better support for Nunavut's hunters, food distribution network

SARAH ROGERS
Hunter Joshua Kango carves up maktak from a bowhead whale caught in Iqaluit in 2011. A new report calls for better subsidies to boost Nunavut's hunting capacity, as a way to feed more of its residents. (FILE PHOTO)
Hunter Joshua Kango carves up maktak from a bowhead whale caught in Iqaluit in 2011. A new report calls for better subsidies to boost Nunavut's hunting capacity, as a way to feed more of its residents. (FILE PHOTO)

A new report says better access to country food would go a long way towards helping Nunavummiut get enough to eat.

Hunger in Nunavut: Local Food for Healthier Communities, prepared by an Action Canada task force, looks at food insecurity across the territory.

The study attempts to understand why nearly 70 per cent of all households in Nunavut have trouble getting enough affordable, nutritious food.

“There is a serious problem in Nunavut that threatens individual and community health,” the report reads.

“Helping the people of Nunavut access more local food is one way to tackle this problem in a way that is both nutritionally beneficial and culturally appropriate. Contrary to popular belief, a diet based on food harvested locally in Nunavut is nutritionally complete and has significant health benefits.”

But hunting capacity is a major barrier to accessing local foods, the report said.

Not having an active hunter in the family increases the likelihood of hunger, the report said. Of the 35 per cent of Nunavut households that have no active hunters, three-quarters were food insecure.

According to a 2008 survey, country food makes up between 17 and 28 per cent of the average Nunavut diet.

But most households in Nunavut — 79 per cent — would prefer to eat more local food, while 19 per cent of respondents would prefer an exclusively local diet, if given the choice.

For the most part though, hunting is only a part-time or weekend activity, the report finds, meaning hunters can’t travel far distances to find game and have fewer opportunities to develop their skills.

The cost of hunting gear is also prohibitive for many Nunavummiut. Restrictions on subsidized items under Nutrition North have made it more expensive to import hunting gear into Nunavut communities, the report notes.

To remedy that, the report suggests that governments and Inuit organizations increase and better target subsidies for hunters to ensure they have the proper equipment.

The report points to the Capital Equipment Support program, suggesting a more targeted approach towards hunters with the financial capacity to use their equipment and hunt more often.

The report also recommends offering more training programs to youth through Nunavut Arctic College and Inuit organizations.

“The benefits of local food extend beyond nutrition;” the report said, “outdoor exercise, community-building and intergenerational knowledge transfer are all positive elements of traditional food harvesting.”

Hunters and fishers can also play a role in feeding the larger community, the report says, but the lack of processing facilities and food distribution networks makes that difficult.

With only three major processing plants across Nunavut, the report suggests creating stronger links among those processors, hunters and retail outlets to increase the availability of country foods in local stores.

And the report acknowledges an inevitable barrier to country food — the impact that a changing environment has on local food sources, from shifting migratory patterns to contaminants affecting the health of wildlife.

The report points to last year’s muskox hunt in Cambridge Bay. It was cancelled because muskox travelled too far away from the community, limiting the availability of muskox for consumption and for commercial sale.

You can read the full report here.

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