Nunavut food security symposium produces big to-do list
“We need to hear from the actual people of Nunavut who are suffering”
About 150 people showed up Jan. 24 to Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit for the Nunavut Food Security Coalition’s country food feast, an event that closed a three-day symposium on food insecurity.
The symposium was one step in creating a Nunavut food security strategy.
“The planning will now start, so spring, June, will be the time that we will be able to share that finished product,” Premier Eva Aariak said.
Participants included government and non-government representatives, Inuit organization representatives, retailers and community groups. The more than 100 delegates identified some main priorities.
On country food access, the priorities for action were:
• strengthening Inuktitut language skills in order to transfer traditional knowledge and supporting the transfer of those skills in and outside of schools.
For the availability of wildlife for food, delegates found wildlife conservation needs to “continue to be balanced” with the needs of Nunavummiut.
Ideas such as setting up inter-community sharing networks of country food, and supporting a “shift towards expanding food preferences” were also suggested.
That means making the “unappetizing more appetizing,” a reference to foods such as harp seal.
Another priority was to incorporate a sharing component into hunter support programs, so that the hunter receiving benefits would be required to provide country food to elders and those in need.
On commercial access to country food, priorities included:
• redirecting current food exports such as turbot to local markets;
• exploring ways to make country food available in stores at affordable prices, while clarifying inspection requirements;
• improving community infrastructure to provide hunters with places to store, prepare, share and sell their harvests; and
• food security subsidies for meat and fish plants.
For Nunavut food retailers, delegates supported the in-store promotion of healthy eating.
Another priority was to do “nutritious food basket” surveys, and compare them with income support food allowances.
The final priority for commercial Nunavut food retailers was to “further explore” making country food available in stores.
Under policy and legislation, the priorities outlined were:
• supporting the Nunavut Food Donations Act;
• examining existing policies;
• promoting self-reliance among income support recipients; and
• considering income support reforms.
Other priorities included expanding food skills and knowledge, and coming up with ideas for local food production, such as greenhouses.
Breakfast programs, and supporting food banks and soup kitchens were also on the list of priorities for the government, Inuit organizations, and NGOs to address.
Iqaluit resident Sky Aurora, who attended the feast of caribou, seal and Arctic char, said while a food strategy will help, the government doesn’t fully understand the food shortages people deal with.
“They should go to interview people at their homes, who are actually feeling the food shortages,” she said, adding, “if these types of symposiums help and they do find a solution then that’s great, but we need to hear from the actual people of Nunavut who are suffering, and suffering hard.”