Nunavik to draft its own food security plan
"We feel the problem is worsening and needs to be addressed"
KUUJJUAQ — Nunavik needs its own food security policy or strategy to address hunger and malnutrition in the region, says its director of public health, Serge Déry.
And the wheels are already in motion: Déry said regional organizations plan to sit down the first week of December to look at where to start.
“I think people would argue that access to food is a basic need, but a lack of food is a real struggle for many people in Nunavik,” Déry told Kativik Regional Government councillors meeting in Kuujjuaq Nov. 25.
“In our last survey, one in four (Nunavimmiut) lacked food at home in the month prior to their response,” Déry said, referring to the 2004 Qanuippitaa health survey, which found a quarter of Nunavimmiut were food insecure.
“And we have more recent evidence that the situation may have worsened since then.”
Country food consumption is down, Déry said, while obesity — stemming from a diet high in trans-fats, sugar, salt and contaminants — is up.
Nunavik’s 2004 Qanuippitaa survey pointed to the unhealthy eating habits of Nunavik youth in particular, like the consumption of pop and sweet drinks.
But that led to the creation of pop-free zones in Nunavik’s schools, Déry said — one example of a policy that can promote healthy eating habits across the region.
There are already a number of other programs to help feed Nunavimmiut, he said, like community kitchens, school-based meal distribution and hunter support.
But a food security policy would look at how to develop more, and region-wide, policies to support food security, Déry said, noting Nunavut’s recently developed strategy as an example.
Déry also pointed to the newly-signed Parnasimautik report, a blueprint for Nunavik’s future, which identifies a need for regional organizations to cooperate on food security.
“It’s a complex issue and beyond the mandate of one single regional organization,” Déry said. “And right now, we feel the problem is worsening and needs to be addressed.”
Part of that policy or strategy will take into consideration the federal Nutrition North Canada program and how it helps or hinders Nunavimmiut’s access to affordable and healthy food.
An audit of the program prepared by the Auditor General’s office released this week found that the Nutrition North freight subsidy has not ensured that northern retailers pass the full subsidy on to consumers.
“I hope when they say healthy food, they mean country food, because that is what is healthy for us,” said KRG chair Maggie Emudluk.
Uranium consultations will factor into this discussion too, Dery said, given the potential impact of mining development on the quality of country foods.
Déry also announced Nov. 25 that the region will see its second Qanuippitaa health survey soon get underway, to be published in 2016.
This survey plans to establish the major health conditions and determinants among Nunavimmiut adults, Déry said, by interviewing about 1,000 randomly-selected people across Nunavik over the next two years.
The well-known Laval university researcher Dr. Eric Dewailly, who led the 2004 Qanuippitaa health survey in Nunavik, was meant to lead the 2016 Qanuippitaa survey.
But the survey’s launch was delayed following Dewailly’s accidental death earlier this year.