Ask us

The Government of Canada is seeking input from community members and other stakeholders on how the program can be more transparent, cost-effective and culturally appropriate in the face of growing demand for healthy food in the North. Visit: Nutrition North Canada Engagement 2016 to learn more.

Choose a topic

Questions and answers

Has the number of communities eligible for the subsidy increased in the last 3 months?

Hello, no new communities have been added to the program in the last three months. However, to help alleviate the high cost of food in the North and promote the access to a healthy diet in all northern isolated communities, Budget 2016 proposes to invest $64.5 million over five years. This new funding would start in 2016-17, and includes $13.8 million per year ongoing, to expand Nutrition North Canada. Further details on the expansion of Nutrition North Canada will be announced in the coming months.

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, 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 e-mail 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 is a retail subsidy program designed to support better nutrition by helping to make perishable nutritious food more accessible, and by supporting community based nutritional education activities. Community gardens and greenhouses may be supported through specific 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 eligible for a partial subsidy under Nutrition North Canada (NNC). A community's eligibility for partial or full subsidy under NNC is determined by the amount of annualized shipments received by the community under the Food Mail program in 2009-2010.

Community members in Sachigo Lake, Northern Ontario received between 100 and 14,999 kg (annualized) of perishable food shipments and less than $4 per month per resident in subsidies under Food Mail, making the community eligible for a partial subsidy.

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:

I worked in Nunavik for six years and I was able to use the Nutrition North Canada program. Today, I am in a small community in northwest Ontario (Deer Lake First Nation) where there is no year-round road access. The prices here are comparable to the Co-op and Northern Stores in Nunavik. Why isn't Deer Lake First Nation in Ontario eligible for the Nutrition North Canada program?

Deer Lake First Nation is not eligible for the Nutrition North Canada program because the community did not use Food Mail, the department's previous northern transportation subsidy program. Find out more about eligible communities and eligibility questions.

Why isn't Tadoule Lake, Manitoba, eligible for the Nutrition North Canada program? The neighboring community Lac Brochet is eligible, but Tadoule Lake isn't. How can the community apply for the program?

Tadoule Lake, Manitoba is not eligible for the NNC program because the community did not use Food Mail, the department's previous northern transportation subsidy program.
Find out more about eligible communities and eligibility questions

Why isn't Berens River, Manitoba, eligible for the Nutrition North Program when Poplar River is eligible?

Berens River, Manitoba is eligible for a partial subsidy under NNC. A community's eligibility for partial or full subsidy under NNC is determined by the amount of annualized shipments received by the community under the Food Mail program.

Community members in Berens River, Manitoba received between 100 and 14,999 kg (annualized) of perishable food shipments and less than $4 per month per resident in subsidies under Food Mail in 2009-2010, making the community eligible for a partial subsidy.

Communities eligible for a full subsidy under NNC, such as Poplar River, received over 15,000 kg (annualized) of perishable food shipments or more than $4 per month per resident in subsidies under Food Mail in 2009-2010.

If Shamattawa is eligible for the full subsidy rates, why is there not a difference in the pricing of milk, produce etc.

Shamattawa is one of a several communities eligible for a partial NNC subsidy and not for a full subsidy rate, based on its use of the former Food Mail program. See eligible communities.

What have you done to help Attawapiskat with their food crisis?

Attawapiskat First Nation receives a food subsidy through Nutrition North Canada in order to improve access to perishable and nutritious food.

Attawapiskat First Nation also receives more than $600,000 annually through INAC's National Child Benefit Reinvestment (NCBR) initiative. The First Nation allocates most of these funds toward healthy meals for students in school.

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

Ask us a question

Do you have questions about NNC? Send us an email  VosQuestions-AskUs@aadnc-aandc.gc.ca. We will post your question and the answer in the section above. You can also contact us by Twitter or Facebook.

Date modified: