Andrew Spring, Deborah Simmons, and Joshua Gladstone
Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy lifestyle (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1996). The topic of food security in the North is a complex puzzle. There are many social, economic and political factors at play, including the high cost of food and transportation, and now the impacts of climate change. What we do know is that for many in communities across the North, the food system is not working. Often described as a crisis, moderate to high food insecurity has been reported in 17% of households in the Yukon and almost 70% of households of in the Nunavut — significantly higher than the national average of 8%1 (Rosol et al., 2011; Council of Canadian Academies, 2014; Tarasuk et al., 2016).
The fact that such high rates of food insecurity exist in a developed country such as Canada is alarming, and brings issues of rights to food, rights to land, and other Indigenous rights into question. For many communities in the North, maintaining a strong connection to the land while continuing their traditional livelihoods through hunting, gathering and sharing of traditional foods is important not only for food security but to maintain social and cultural identity. A solution to many of the issues around food insecurity may lie as much in strengthening social and cultural connections within communities as in fostering local food production and lowering the cost of food. Unfortunately, there is no simple solution to such a complex problem.
And yes, there are challenges. But there is hope as well. Communities, governments, and other institutions are creating positive change and beginning to address some of the complex issues of food insecurity. And there are a great deal of initiatives at all levels – community, regional, territorial and federal – that are making a difference. The challenge now is one of connecting the pieces. Ensuring a food secure future for Northern communities means addressing community needs and supporting them through partnerships and collaboration.
In this issue of Northern Public Affairs we offer articles on food security from the perspectives of Northern community members, researchers, and policy analysts. Published in collaboration with Wilfrid Laurier University’s Centre for Sustainable Food Systems in Waterloo, ON, the issue includes personal stories (Tuglavina) and descriptions of local initiatives such as a community garden in Kakisa (Simba and Spring,), Yellowknife’s food charter (Johnston and Williams), and food security strategies in Yukon that address the impacts of climate change on health (Pratt et al.). Other articles directly address the politics of food security in the North (Loring) and the ways in which country food (food harvested from the land) factors into food security at the level of the community (Daborn; Mills et al.) and government policy (Stephenson and Wenzel). Finally, Michael Fitzgerald and Fred Hill unpack the federal Liberal government’s in progress improving Nutrition North.
We are also pleased to include two articles based on research projects funded in part by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s partnership grant Resources and Sustainable Development in the Arctic (ReSDA). Saxinger and Gartler introduce their mobile mine workers guide, and Mills et al. discuss the results of focus groups with women in Nunatsiavut who say that food security has been impacted by the Voisey’s Bay mine.
Clark and Joe-Strack offer a provocative call to reject sweeping generalizations about the success or failure of co-management regimes in favour of more current and “better-engaged” research. David Roddick gives his view of the recent Yukon territorial election. And Kendall Hammon discusses the concept of living wage and its recent application in Yukon.
Finally, we are pleased to publish an excerpt from Those Who Walk in the Sky, the soon-to-be-released debut novel by Aviaq Johnston. We thank Aviaq and her publisher, Inhabit Media, for providing the selection. Look for Aviaq’s novel in stores in April. ◉
- Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (1996). Report of the World Food Summit. Rome.
- Council of Canadian Academies (2014). Aboriginal Food Security in Northern Canada: An Assessment of the State of Knowledge. Council of Canadian Academies, Ottawa, ON.
- Rosol, R., Huet, C., Wood, M., Lennie, C., Osborne, G., and Egeland, G. M. (2011). Prevalence of affirmative responses to questions of food insecurity: International Polar Year Inuit Health Survey, 2007-2008. International Journal of Circumpolar Health 70(5):488–97.
- Tarasuk, V., Mitchell, A., and Dachner, N. (2016). Household food insecurity in Canada. Toronto.