How Nutrition North Canada works

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What is Nutrition North Canada?

Nutrition North Canada (NNC) is a Government of Canada program that helps make nutritious food and some essential items more affordable and more accessible. NNC helps eligible northern communities in these ways:

Figure 1: Learn how the expansion of Nutrition North Canada is helping to strengthen food security in the North

Nutrition North Canada is a key piece of the federal government's food security response in northern communities.

Retail subsidy: Extend retail subsidy to include local food producers, charitable organizations and food banks.

Harvesters Support Grant: More grant funding, broader support for local food production, including food and harvesting infrastructure.

Community Food Programs Fund: A dedicated fund to support a variety of community-led food security activities for retail, locally grown, and country food.

Nutrition Education Initiatives: Continue to support culturally appropriate and community-based nutrition education activities.

Food Security Research Grant: A dedicated grant to support research to gather new information for supporting food security in the North.

How the subsidy works

NNC subsidizes a list of nutritious eligible foods, as well as certain non-food items such as diapers and soap, hand-sanitizers and personal hygiene products, sold by registered retailers, suppliers, country food processors and local food growers. Food banks and charitable organizations are also eligible for the subsidy.

Customers in eligible communities can purchase subsidized food from registered northern retailers, directly from registered suppliers or from registered local food growers.

Eligible communities can also benefit from the subsidy through food that is donated by registered food banks and other charitable organizations, without profit.

The subsidy is applied against the total cost of an eligible product (including product purchasing cost, transportation, insurance and overhead) shipped by air, ice road, sealift or barge to an eligible community. This means that the price you pay for these items is cheaper than it otherwise would be, and reduces the cost for charitable organizations to donate food to isolated communities.

For profit businesses must pass on the full subsidy to consumers.

If you have a business or charitable organization that operates in or serves one or more of our eligible communities and are interested in registering with NNC, visit Accessing the retail subsidy.

How to access the subsidy

If you live in an eligible Northern community, there are 3 ways you can access the subsidy.

Shopping at a registered retailer or local food grower

When you shop at a registered NNC retailer, or directly from a local food grower, the price of eligible food reflects the NNC subsidy. At larger stores, the savings will be displayed on your receipt.

Making a direct order

When you order directly from a registered supplier, the NNC subsidy is automatically deducted from the price of all eligible items. Individuals, schools, restaurants and small retailers can access direct orders. This option helps preserve competition among northern retailers and provides consumers with flexibility related to special dietary needs.

To place a direct order:

  • pick a supplier from the list of registered suppliers
  • place your order with your chosen supplier by phone or email

Your savings will be shown on your invoice.

Sample point-of-sale in-store receipt

Larger NNC retailers across the North are required to display the NNC subsidy on customers' receipts.

Watch a video about Nutrition North Canada's point-of-sale system


Nutrition North Canada Receipt
Figure 1: Receipt from Iqaluit, NU – NorthMart store showing savings resulting from the NNC subsidy
Description of the Receipt from North West Co, NorthMart store

The image is of a receipt from North West Co, NorthMart store, Iqaluit, NU, which includes the money saved through the NNC subsidy for each item purchased by the customer. Items were purchased on June 11, 2020:

  • customer purchased cantaloupe large at $6.49, saving $5.74 through NNC subsidy
  • customer purchased carrots baby at $3.29, saving $1.67 through NNC subsidy
  • customer purchased peppers mixed at $8.99, saving $2.03 through NNC subsidy
  • customer purchased cucumbers at $5.99, saving $1.22 through NNC subsidy
  • customer purchased tomatoes grape at $2.99, saving $1.11 through NNC subsidy
  • the Subtotal came to $27.75, which includes $11.77 savings through NNC subsidy

NNC saved the customer $11.77 on their purchases. The original receipt is required within 30 days for a refund.

Food banks and charitable organizations

Registered food banks and other charitable organizations which serve eligible communities, without profit, can claim the subsidy for all eligible items shipped to an eligible community, at the same rates as received by local retailers.

Subsidy levels

NNC subsidies apply to all eligible items shipped to eligible communities by air, ice road, sealift or barge. Subsidy rates vary depending on:

Eligible communities and their subsidy rates

Eligible food and non-food items

By air

There are 3 subsidy levels for items shipped by air:

  • high
  • medium
  • low

Items subsidized under each level are determined with input from Indigenous and community partners and include culturally appropriate and nutritious foods. More savings are provided to the most nutritious, perishable foods. In addition, savings are provided to less perishable foods and essential non-food items.

Seasonal surface transportation

Eligible communities that use winter roads, sealifts or barges to ship food seasonally receive a subsidy rate determined by the location of the community.

For country and traditional foods

NNC subsidizes commercially-inspected country and traditional foods such as Arctic char, caribou, goose and muktuk when purchased from a local store or processing plant recognized by the program. There are currently 3 country food processors registered with NNC:

  • Kivalliq Arctic Foods Ltd. (Rankin Inlet, NU)
  • Pangnirtung Fisheries Ltd. (Pangnirtung, NU)
  • Kitikmeot Food Ltd (Cambridge, NU)


For 2022 to 2023, NNC's retail subsidy has a budget of $131.3 million. This budget increases by roughly 5% each year in an attempt to keep pace with population growth, inflation, and the high costs of operating in isolated northern communities.

An additional $36 million will be spent on the Harvesters Support Grant (HSG) and $60.9 million on the Community Food Programs Fund (CFPF) over two years, ending in March 2024. For the HSG, $8 million per year has been committed beyond 2024, on an ongoing basis.

$1.5 million over two years is also being provided for Nutrition North Canada's Food Security Research Grant to inform ongoing and locally driven food security solutions.

Compliance reviews

NNC is committed to ensuring that its operations are transparent.

Registered businesses and charitable organizations submit monthly claims outlining how many kilograms of eligible items they shipped to eligible communities. These claims are reviewed independently by an accredited third-party to ensure that the NNC subsidy was applied correctly. Once a claim is reviewed, NNC reimburses the registered business or charitable organization for the amount recommended by the third party.

Each year, a sample of registered businesses and charitable organizations are chosen to undergo a compliance review. This process helps determine whether they are complying with the terms and conditions of the funding agreement they signed with Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) and are transferring the subsidy to customers. The compliance reviews are also conducted by an independent and accredited third-party, not federal government employees. The reviews are posted online and available in the reports section.

The registered business and/or charitable organization is made aware during the review if any business practices or processes do not comply with their funding agreement. Once notified, they can develop a solution on their own, or the reviewer may recommend specific changes to correct the situation. CIRNAC provides recommendations to the registered businesses and/or charitable organizations by letter and they are required to respond with proof that they have implemented a solution. Beginning with the 2013-2014 reviews, these letters are also available online in the status section of each compliance review. If the registered business and/or charitable organization continues to be non-compliant, the funding agreement can be terminated. This is a last resort option, and CIRNAC will work with the registered business and/or charitable organization to fix issues where possible to allow Northerners as much choice as possible.

List of northern retailers and suppliers

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