TORONTO – A new report suggests people living in remote northern Ontario communities spend more than half their income on food to meet basic nutritional needs.
The report from Food Secure Canada looked at the cost of certain food items in three northern Ontario reserves — Moose Factory, Fort Albany and Attawapiskat.
It found on-reserve households in Fort Albany, Ont., must spend at least 50 per cent of their median monthly income to buy food for a basic nutritious diet. The report said a “reasonable assumption” suggests Attawapiskat and Moose Factory must do so as well.
The report also compares food prices in the northern communities to comparable purchases in southern Ontario.
It says the average cost of a food basket for a family of four for a month in the northern community of Attawapiskat in June 2015 was $1,909, compared to $847 in Toronto.
Food Secure Canada says that’s despite the fact that Attawapiskat is serviced by the federal government’s Nutrition North Canada program, intended to make healthy perishable food more affordable in northern communities.
The organisation is calling on federal and provincial governments to make access to nutritionally adequate and culturally appropriate food a basic human right in Canada.
“The subsidy, as we experience it in Fort Albany, has not made it possible for the average family to eat well, let alone afford basic things like diapers and toilet paper,” Gigi Veeraraghavan, a community health worker and one of the report authors said in a release.
“We are living hand to mouth.”