Nunatsiavut cau­tiously op­ti­mistic about Nu­tri­tion North changes

The Labradorian - - Front Page - BY EVAN CAREEN

The fed­eral govern­ment an­nounced changes to the Nu­tri­tion North pro­gram on Dec. 10. While the Nunatsiavut Govern­ment (NG) is op­ti­mistic about the an­nounce­ment, they still have con­cerns.

“Over­all we’re happy that changes are be­ing made,” said Kris­teen McTav­ish, Food Se­cu­rity co­or­di­na­tor for NG. “We’re happy the fed­eral govern­ment does rec­og­nize the pro­gram needs to be mod­i­fied and up­dated.”

Yvonne Jones, MP for Labrador and Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tary to the Min­is­ter of In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal and North­ern Af­fairs and In­ter­nal Trade, made the an­nounce­ment for the fed­eral govern­ment, not­ing there will be an in­vest­ment of $62.6 mil­lion over five years to the pro­gram.

Some of the changes an­nounced are a re­vised sub­si­dized foods list, in­clud­ing a fo­cus on north­ern sta­ples; a higher sub­sidy rate for milk, frozen fruit, frozen veg­eta­bles, in­fant for­mula, and in­fant food; and an in­crease to the two cur­rent sub­sidy rates.

The pro­gram is also up­dat­ing its el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria to en­sure that only re­tail­ers and sup­pli­ers that serve res­i­dents of iso­lated com­mu­ni­ties are el­i­gi­ble, and is also pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial sup­port to smaller re­tail­ers. The sup­port is slated to help those re­tail­ers with the costs of meet­ing re­port­ing re­quire­ments, as well as pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance with point of sale sys­tems for re­tail­ers en­ter­ing the pro­gram.

“Our govern­ment firmly be­lieves that pol­icy cre­ated with North­ern­ers, for North­ern­ers is the most ef­fec­tive,” Jones said at the an­nounce­ment. “The changes to the sub­sidy rates and the food el­i­gi­bil­ity list an­nounced to­day re­flect what we have heard from North­ern­ers about how we can bet­ter help them ac­cess healthy foods.”

Jones said the fed­eral govern­ment does rec­og­nize the need to change the pro­gram.

McTav­ish said they are very happy to see some ad­di­tional foods added to the sub­sidy list and a new har­vesters sup­port grant to help lower the high costs as­so­ci­ated with tra­di­tional hunt­ing and har­vest­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

Con­cern

She said they are still con­cerned, how­ever, about the pro­gram it­self in a larger sense.

“Over­all we’re still con­cerned about how the pro­gram is struc­tured,” she said. “The way it’s struc­tured in terms of the way it’s ap­plied to the mar­ket sys­tem, with the money go­ing to sup­pli­ers and stores, who are in most cases large cor­po­ra­tions. We don’t think that struc­ture is the right way to go about im­prov­ing food se­cu­rity in the north.”

The funds the fed­eral govern­ment has set aside for the pro­gram go di­rectly to the re­tail­ers. McTav­ish told The Labradorian in a pre­vi­ous in­ter­view, they don’t feel the eval­u­a­tion and trans­parency mech­a­nisms are in place to see what is be­ing done with those dol­lars.

She said small tweaks to the pro­gram doesn’t re­ally change the is­sues they have with it. McTav­ish said they were hop­ing to see en­hanced re­port­ing mech­a­nisms and in­creased trans­parency in the an­nounce­ment but haven’t seen or heard any­thing yet.

Work­ing group

A new Inuit-Crown Food Se­cu­rity work­ing group was also an­nounced, with a man­date to fo­cus on food se­cu­rity and work to­wards a sus­tain­able food sys­tem in Inuit re­gions. McTav­ish said they have heard this group can in­form what the har­vester sup­port pro­gram will look like.

“They an­nounced the pro­gram but no de­tails as to what that will look like,” she said. “What we are hear­ing is there is a real com­mit­ment to work with the Inuit re­gions to im­ple­ment that and make de­ci­sions on how that fund­ing will be used.”

NG and the other Inuit rep­re­sen­ta­tives pulled out of an Indige­nous work­ing group in April 2018 that was set up by Nu­tri­tion North, cit­ing lack of de­ci­sion­mak­ing power and con­cerns that it was to­kenism. When asked by The Labradorian if this was a con­cern for NG with the new work­ing group, McTav­ish said she’s be­ing op­ti­mistic.

“I think at this point we’re re­main­ing hope­ful,” she noted. “There does seem to be a com­mit­ment from the higher-level folks within the fed­eral govern­ment and with this group there does seem to be a com­mit­ment to work to­gether.”

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