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When a Northern retailer such as the Northwest Company receives the subsidy, is the amount received based solely on the formula "weight x the subsidy"? What if the cost of the air portion for the freight was less than the subsidy received? Would the retailer still receive the full subsidy?

The Government of Canada is currently in the process of improving and expanding the Nutrition North program to better support families’ access to affordable, healthy food. As part of that ongoing commitment, engagement sessions were held to canvas the views of community members and other stakeholders on how the program can be more transparent, cost-effective, and culturally appropriate. Together, we want to explore solutions developed by Northerners for Northerners. To answer your specific question, the Nutrition North Canada subsidy is not a freight subsidy, but rather, it is what we call a retail subsidy. This means the subsidy is applied to the total cost of an eligible product (including product purchasing cost, transportation, insurance, and overhead) in order to address the high cost of stocking and shipping perishable nutritious food to the North. There are two levels of subsidies for perishable nutritious food and one level for country food. For perishable food, the level 1 (high) subsidy rate applies to the most nutritious, perishable food. The level 2 (low) applies to other staple food items. The subsidy rate amounts vary by community. Please refer to How the subsidy works for more information on this. The amount of the subsidy on food items is calculated using this formula: subsidy level ($/kg) x weight of eligible item (kg) = $ subsidy payment. For example, in Baker Lake, Nunavut, milk receives a level 1 subsidy of $3.30/kg. Since 2 litres of milk weighs 2 kg, a 2 litre carton of milk receives a $6.60 subsidy

I am seeking information on the cost of the Revised Northern Food Basket for Whitehorse, Yukon. Does INAC collect this information?

Nutrition North Canada only calculates the costs of the Revised Northern Food Basket program for communities that are eligible for NNC - which for the Yukon is Old Crow. For the results, visit Cost of the RNFB in communities eligible for a full subsidy.

So in the reports you say NNC reviews the cost of food prices. How can you justify these communities spending $100+ on a case of water? How do you expect people to pay such outrageous prices? As leaders you should really see the problem with this and take action. What if your grandchild lived up north and was eating in the local dump to survive?

The high cost of food and living in the North is driven by many forces – geography, transportation, and national and global economic conditions.

The purpose of NNC is to help improve access to healthy and perishable foods available to Northerners living in eligible communities in Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Yukon, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Labrador.

While bottled water is not a subsidized item, it can be transported by less costly means of transportation, such as barge, sea lift or winter road. For information on what foods are subsidized, please see the eligible food list.

Between April 2011 and March 2014 the cost of the Revised Northern Food Basket for a family of four dropped on average by 7.2 percent, or approximately $137 per month. The average volume of healthy food shipped to northern remote communities increased by approximately 25 percent during the first three years of NNC. In 2013-2014, 95 percent of NNC's subsidy was spent on perishable nutritious food.

Is it possible to be reimbursed for on-line grocery orders from a merchant who is not registered in the program?

No. The subsidy is only accessible when purchasing eligible food from a registered Northern retailer, Southern supplier or Country food processor/distributor.

I faxed over a food list I wanted to order but I need the total amount of my order and a card link so I can make a payment.

Direct or personal orders are placed with a registered supplier, and not with Nutrition North Canada. To complete your order, please contact a registered Southern supplier that takes direct or personal orders.

Why is food thrown out, such as fruit, vegetables, milk, yogurt, bread, to our dump daily?

Nutrition North Canada provides a subsidy to Northern retailers to lower the cost of healthy perishable food, but day-to-day retail operations are outside the scope of the program. Consumers are encouraged to engage local store management and raise with them issues that are within the retailer's purview, such as decisions to put food items on sale, remove food items from the shelf, and to discard such items.

How do new items get added to the list? Currently, Almond Milk is not so I cannot have it sent to me using the NNC rates.

The eligible food list is periodically reviewed. Northerners can make suggestions by sending an email to nutritionnorth@aandc.gc.ca or by calling 1-800-567-9604. The eligible food list focuses on healthy perishable food, and includes milk and nutritionally adequate alternatives to milk as per the recommendations in Canada's Food Guide. The nutritional value of almond-based beverages is limited as they contain little to no protein and, as a result, do not compare nutritionally to milk. Milk and other nutritionally adequate alternatives to milk, such as lactose free milk, are subsidized at the highest level.

Why is it that when the NNC was brought up food prices were lowered then changed again? Shouldn't it stay the same?

Nutrition North Canada does not set prices for subsidized items. It sets the subsidy rates for eligible food. Costs are driven by many forces—geography, transportation, and national and global economic conditions, which can result in fluctuating food costs.

Who can I contact to get information on grocery costs or the freshness of available food?

Consumers who are concerned about grocery costs or the freshness of available food are encouraged to contact their local retailer or direct order provider.

How do you ensure retailers pass on the program subsidies to consumers?

INAC has the authority to ensure that retailers fulfill their obligation of passing on the program subsidies to consumers. This is done through formal agreements that set out the responsibilities of registered food suppliers and retailers.

Registered retailers are required to submit monthly reports and pricing data as part of the claims process and to make the dollar value level of subsidy visible to consumers through in-store signage and on-receipt messages. As well, registered retailers and food suppliers must submit to audits of their accounts and records at the request of the department.

Why not support better nutrition and food security by supporting/subsidizing community greenhouses & gardens?

Nutrition North Canada (NNC) is a retail subsidy program designed to support better nutrition by helping to make perishable nutritious food more accessible, and by funding and supporting culturally appropriate retail and community based nutrition education activities. The NNC nutrition education activities aim to increase knowledge of healthy eating and develop skills in selecting and preparing healthy store-bought and traditional or country foods through activities such as workshops, in-store demonstrations, and development of education materials. Communities decide which NNC nutrition education activities to undertake based on their needs and priorities. For example, they may choose to deliver sessions to learn about gardening skills and organize a community garden. Community gardens and greenhouses may also be supported through other initiatives and programs provided by other departments or levels of government.

Why has Valu Lots shipping to Kitikmeot suddenly tripled? Three times the freight cost? This doesn't feel right, is there no way to monitor or address the lack of transparency?

Please contact registered Southern suppliers directly if you have questions pertaining to specific orders. Retailers and food suppliers registered with the program are encouraged to use the most effective and cost-efficient supply chain arrangements and routes to reduce the price of eligible items and provide the best quality for customers and consumers.

How much is shipping on "level 1" items supposed to be? For example, milk and fruit. Rankin Inlet has seen increased charges by NWC.

Shipping rates and retail subsidy rates are two different things. Shipping rates are negotiated by retailers with airlines and are part of the cost a retailer has in conducting its business. NNC provides a Rankin Inlet retail subsidy of $2.20 per kg on "level 1" eligible food list such as milk and fruit. This subsidy rate has not changed since October 2011. There are a number of factors that can impact the price of food including the cost of fuel, global food prices and seasonality. However, you may wish to discuss the issue with the NWC directly. You can visit their website at: http://www.northwest.ca/ or reach them at: General Inquiries –  nwc@northwest.ca or Community Support –  communitysupport@northwest.ca or by 1 (204) 943-0881 or 1 (800) 782-0391.

How can retailers provide the program with food prices when there are sometimes no prices on the shelves in local stores?

Most food price data that the program receives comes from retailers' computer systems. Retailers are required to display information about the NNC program and subsidy rates in their stores; however, the program does not have the authority to require that they display prices on store shelves. Shoppers should talk with the store manager if they have concerns or questions about this issue.

Your website shows that southern suppliers are also registered with NNC. Are suppliers' prices used to calculate the cost of the Revised Northern Food Basket?

No. The cost of the basket is calculated using prices provided by registered northern retailers only because it is intended to represent the cost of a healthy diet in isolated northern communities. Local retailers set their prices at levels that reflect the cost of operating a store in small and isolated markets, and these prices are what shoppers pay, no other fees are added. Southern suppliers set their food prices based on different operating costs. Also, their prices may not be the total that shoppers pay because fees associated with placing a direct (personal) order are shown as a lump-sum or single amount, which means they aren't factored into suppliers' prices.

I am in Sachigo Lake, further north than Bear Skin. Is our community eligible for the shipping and food subsidy program?

Sachigo Lake, Northern Ontario is now eligible for the full subsidy as of October 1, 2016 under Nutrition North Canada (NNC). As of October 1, 2016, any communities receiving the partial subsidy, as well as any other isolated northern community, became eligible for the full NNC subsidy. To find out which communities recently became eligible, visit Map of eligible communities as of October 1, 2016.

I would like to know, if I do my groceries at IGA, is it possible for me to be reimbursed? How do I proceed? Do I need to fill out a form? I live in Tasiujaq QC.

There are two ways to benefit from the Nutrition North Canada Program:

Why did a turkey cost $95.20 in Resolute Bay? Perhaps an example of how subsidies don't get passed on to consumers.

Many items sold in the North can be more expensive than items in the South as a result of larger geography, smaller communities, transportation, cost of power and wages, and world market trends. NNC does not set the price of food. Rather, NNC provides retailers a set subsidy by item which is intended to reduce the cost of these items to consumers.

Shoppers who are concerned about current grocery costs are encouraged to contact their local retailer or direct order provider.

We are ensuring transparency and accountability by requiring that retailers and food suppliers:

  • Attest on a monthly basis that claims made under the program are valid and accurate and that the subsidy is being passed on to consumers
  • Submit invoices and other documents, such as waybills, to support claims;
  • Submit pricing and itemized shipment content reports
  • Make the dollar value per kilogram for each level of subsidy visible to consumers through in-store signage and on-receipt messages; and submit to audits as required

However, if there are unusual trends in price data or customers express their concerns, NNC will follow up with registered retailers directly. In this case, when contacted, the retailer indicated the cost was high because the volume of turkeys sold was low, but new supply chain efficiencies will significantly lower the cost in the future.

I am concerned about retailers' grocery costs. I have talked to them directly with no results. What can I do now?

Generally, consumers who are concerned about grocery costs are encouraged to contact their local retailer or direct order provider. However, if you are not satisfied with their response, you can contact the retailer's head office. If the head office is a co-operative store, another option may be to participate in the operation of the co-operative. Members elect the Board of Directors of the Co-op and provide direction to the board on how their business should operate. For INAC's part, the department's role is to provide a subsidy to registered retailers to reduce the cost of food and then hold retailers accountable for fully passing on the subsidy to customers.

The NNC Advisory Board always welcomes your comments and can be reached at  nncadvisoryboard@aadnc.gc.ca

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