Feeding the hungry in the NWT

2012-09-22 11.12.56
Many of us take pride in the idea that we live in a wealthy country. But that pride ignores a significant income disparity between those who really are wealthy and those who aren’t. The NWT experiences one of the greatest income disparities in the country. The top 20 per cent earn in excess of $200,000 per year while the bottom 20 per cent earn just over $16,000 (2009 figures).

A recent study of living expenses completed for the Yellowknife Living Wage project calculated that a family of four (two adults, one school-age child, one toddler) would spend $12,124 to meet its basic needs. It’s not surprising then, that a significant number of northerners in Yellowknife and communities across the NWT are hungry.

In fact, Statistics Canada reported that 1,855 households in the NWT experienced food insecurity in 2007-08. That’s an old number but there are indicators that show the problem may be even more widespread now:
 Kilograms of “post-consumer” food distributed by Food Rescue Yellowknife: 167,000 kg (2014)
 Number of bags of groceries given out by YK Food bank: 150 bags weekly (2014)
 Number of children served by Breakfast for Learning (NWT-wide): 10,296*
 Number of meals served by Breakfast for Learning (NWT-side): 1,739,480*

*2013-14 Breakfast for Learning Annual Report

Those are shocking numbers for a wealthy country like Canada and shock has motivated change. Growing our own vegetables is popular again in the NWT. While the season is short, people are able to supplement store-bought produce with fresher and more nutritious choices closer to home. People are also taking an interest in the food preservation techniques of our grandmothers, including bottling, pickling and freezing.

I’m behind the efforts of the Yellowknife Farmers Market to promote a Food Charter as a systemic solution to the chronic problem of hunger in the NWT. The Charter envisions everyone having access to adequate and affordable nutritious food; more food grown and harvested locally; and food production policies and infrastructure that support an economically-viable local food system. I hope to see these charters adopted in communities all around the NWT so that there’s no more hunger in this wealthy country and territory.