The astronomical food prices in Canada’s far north have become the stuff of legend (and of viral news stories), and now a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign wants to do something about it.
Igloolik resident Merlyn Recinos, who bills himself as a former employee of Nunvaut's two largest retailers, has launched a campaign to fund the Nunavut Online Store, which would cut out the local retailers and fly food into the territory by plane.
“Living and working in Nunavut with a family of four, our monthly bill on groceries was around $2,000 to $3,000,” Recinos says on his Kickstarter page. “This is a place where the average income is $25,000 a year….”
Recinos estimates that his plan to buy directly from wholesalers in southern Canada and ship the food by plane to Nunavut will allow the online store to sell at prices 20 per cent to 40 per cent lower than in Nunavut stores.
He says that, although the government offers subsidies to food retailers under a program called Nutrition North Canada, “a lot of the time the full subsidy of this program is not pass[ed] on to the customer.” Recinos says his store will pass the full subsidy on to customers.
But so far there are few takers for the crowdfunding campaign. With six days to go until it closes, the Nunvaut Online Store campaign had only raised $25 of its $160,000 goal. Recinos says the store needs warehouse and office space in Ottawa, and office space in Nunavut.
UPDATE 8/14/2015: The total raised had reached $485 as of 10:30 a.m ET Friday.
Recinos told Global News that if the campaign fails, he won’t give up because for him it’s about improving the lives of Nunavut residents.
He noted that retailers like Costco and Amazon also ship to the Canadian north, but he says their services are inconsistent, shipping fees can be very high and sometimes they will not ship at all.
A 2014 survey by the Canadian Press of food prices found retail food costs in Nunavut of at least twice the Canadian average, and much more for certain items. Chicken cost $16 per kilogram, compared to a Canadian average of $7. Flour cost $13 for 2.5 kilograms, compared to $5 on average across the country.
Some 70 per cent of Inuit households are considered to be food insecure, about eight times the national average.