Today’s post is not one of my regular, irreverent, sarcastic posts. Just thought you should know that from the get go. If anything, this post is a giant, “Are you fucking kidding me?!?”
A few weeks ago I was browsing my beloved Buzzfeed (www.buzzfeed.com) and came across a slide show showing pictures of outrageously priced groceries: $10.29 for a bag of Tostitos chips, $11.29 for one can of frozen orange juice, $22.99 for a bottle of fruit punch, a 4 lb head of cabbage for $28.54, apples for $6.69/kg, $65 for a bag of chicken, and $104.99 for a 24-pack of bottled water. My first thoughts were, “Surely this is a joke!” and “Somebody obviously made a mistake in pricing things at the store.” The more I read the more shocked I became. These prices weren’t a joke, and there was no error by a stocking clerk; those are real grocery prices in the Canadian territory of Nunavut.
Nunavut is the largest and newest federal territory in the country of Canada, separating from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999. Nunavut may be the largest territory in Canada in terms of size, but it also has the lowest population: roughly 32,000 reside in this giant area, the majority of which are native Inuit. [source: Wikipedia]
- $500-700 bi-weekly to feed a family of 7. This is the person’s entire check, and the food only lasts 6-8 days.
- $600/wk for a family of 3
- $500/wk for just one person. This person has given up most meats, dairy, and all processed foods to be able to eat healthy fruits, veggies, almond milk every day.
- $1000/wk for a family of 5, but they spend more if other family members eat with them.
- $250/wk for a family of 5, but they order meat and other things elsewhere and have it shipped in; they buy very little at local stores
- $600 every 2 weeks to feed a family of 4, but the food never lasts 2 weeks
- $1000/wk for a family of 2.
- $300-400/wk for only 3-4 bags of groceries
- recently spent $600 buying groceries for their family and the food lasted 3 days
- $450 every 2 weeks, and that is before they pay any household bills, utilities, or rent
- $1000 every 2 weeks for a family of 10, but they always run out of stuff before payday
- $500/wk for a family of 8, and this person tries to stretch the food by serving one meal a day
- $2000 a month for a family of 5
- One woman told me she has lost 15 pounds over several years because she eats less to be able to feed her children more.
I read other people’s discussions on the “Feeding My Family” page. One family discusses their child having multiple food allergies so they have no choice but to buy certain foods—-no matter what the cost. Several people talk about how they can’t diaper their babies or afford formula for them. I look at my own chubby, growing 6-inch and can only imagine the heartbreak that mother feels at not being able to provide everything for her child. People have asked the Nunavut residents why they can’t go and hunt like their ancestors did. The reason? It’s too damn expensive! Bullets, gas for the snowmobile, food for the trip, and other expenditures put the cost at hundreds of dollars just for one hunting trip—and there is no guarantee, of course, that they will be able to kill anything. In the group I have also read about subsidies, food banks, etc. I don’t understand it all, but I understand enough to know that they are getting the shit end of the stick.
The price of groceries in Nunavut is also affecting the health of the residents. In addition to so many dealing with hunger, the rates of diabetes and obesity among the Inuit are quickly growing. This is largely due to not eating a healthy diet. Imagine looking in your wallet and finding that you have $25. You have two choices on how to spend that: you can buy two bell peppers and a handful of apples, OR you can buy an entire box of frozen taquitos. It is a no brainer—you will obviously choose the food that is most filling and provides the most calories. Sadly enough, the most calorically dense foods are usually the ones that are the most nutritionally void—frozen TV dinners, frozen pizza, heavily processed convenience foods, chips, crackers, cookies, etc. These people deserve access to affordable healthy foods. What is going on Nunanut is not ok, and, in my opinion, is not ok for anyone. It is almost like these people are being penalized for where they live. The majority of Nunavut residents are native Inuit; the Canadian government is basically making a mockery of them. I’m not Canadian, mind you, but I am fucking mad.
I asked Leesee Papatsie what people could do to help. She said the best thing is to spread the word about this issue—you can join the “Feeding My Family” Facebook group and urge others to do so. She urges everyone, Canadian or not, to write their local representatives and sign online petitions. Another Facebook member, Sarah Cramer, has started the “Nunavut Adopt A Family” page; on this page you can “adopt” a family who needs help. J and I have adopted a family! The US postal service will send a 20 lb priority mail box to anywhere in Canada for $39.95. I am happy to do without two restaurant meals and two sets of fake nails a month to send a family a box stuffed full of peanut butter, rice, nuts, noodles, canned tuna, dried fruit, oatmeal, spaghetti sauce mixes, soup, and powdered milk. Until reading about the situation in Nunavut I didn’t think twice about how much I spent on groceries ($350 every two weeks, and that includes formula and stuff like TP, paper towels, cleaning stuff) and other stuff. For the last few days it is all I can think about. There are tons of news articles and statistics on the internet; if I referenced all of them I would never be able to finish this blog entry. The absolute best place to start is by joining the FB group or visiting www.feedingmyfamily.org. You can also direct people to my blog; I don’t get paid for writing my profanity-laced drivel, so I’m not turning a profit by getting clicks.
I leave you today with photos from the “Feeding My Family” Facebook group. I would post pictures of the people of Nunavut protesting and the wonderful signs they are carrying, but I can’t identify them to ask their permission so I will not post them. I will, however, post photos of food prices taken in markets throughout the territory: