NNC advisory board chair says program is working
There has been much discussion recently of the impact the Nutrition North Canada program has had on northerners’ access to fresh, nutritious foods, and not all of it reflects the true nature of the program or its mandate.
As the chair of the NNC Advisory Board and as a northerner who understands the importance of access to fresh, nutritious food, I would like to take this opportunity to shed some light on the program and its benefits.
Launched in April 2011, NNC subsidizes a variety of perishable foods, as well as country or traditional foods commercially-processed in the North that are shipped by air to eligible communities.
The list of foods eligible for subsidies reflects the foods northerners have indicated they want NNC focused on, including fruits, vegetables, bread, meat, milk and eggs.
These foods are subsidized at a higher rate than foods lower in nutritional value, such as frozen pizza and lasagna, to encourage their consumption.
Businesses registered with the program are responsible for passing the subsidy on to northern consumers and to ensure this, monthly reports are sent to program officials for review and retailers are required to submit to audits on a regular basis. In just over a year, seven audits have been conducted, including audits of stores in the north, and suppliers in the south.
Analysis of data gathered from retailers registered with the program shows that although it has been in place for just over a year now, the program is having a positive impact. In some cases savings of up to 35 per cent (over the previous year) are being passed on to consumers.
An important feature of NNC over the Food Mail Program it replaced is that retailers are required to make the program visible and the subsidy transparent to consumers through in-store signage.
Some retailers are even including NNC as part of their own marketing to feature products eligible for the subsidy. Over time, stronger accountability measures, coupled with the program’s extensive nutrition education and outreach activities, will encourage retailers to use sealifts, barges and ground transportation to ship non-perishable goods which will in turn help to keep food costs lower for the consumer.
The NNC Advisory Board plays an important role in shaping the activities and direction of the program by providing the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada with a northern perspective and by raising issues or concerns on behalf of northerners.
Recently, the advisory board visited a number of communities and we will be sharing what we learned with AANDC so that together we can continue to improve access to nutritional foods for northerners.
Chair, NNC Advisory Board
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