Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada
1 Nicholas Street, Suite 520
Ottawa, ON K1N 7B7
Toll Free: 1-800-667-0749
Lema Ijtemaye, Manager, Social and Economic Development
Food security is a key issue for Inuit women, children and families. Pauktuutit works to incorporate the impacts of food insecurity across all policy and project goals. Pauktuutit is a member of ITK’s Food Security Network Advisory Group where we advocate for the unique impacts and needs of Inuit women and youth as it relates to food insecurity.
A long history of political, economic, and social marginalization has led to considerable health inequities for Inuit. Within the food system, these challenges are demonstrated by the significantly high food insecurity rates that are being experienced in Inuit communities. The Inuit Health Survey found that in Nunavut, 68.8% of Inuit households are food insecure. This is six times higher than the Canadian national average and represents the highest documented food insecurity rate for any Indigenous population residing in a country part of the OECD. High rates of food insecurity have been recorded in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (43.3%), and Nunatsiavut (45.7%). A lack of access to food has also been found in Nunavik, with 24% Inuit lacking food in the month prior to the Nunavik Inuit Heath Survey. Among children, the Nunavut Inuit Child Health Survey indicated that nearly 70% of Inuit preschoolers lived in food insecure households and 56% were in households with child food insecurity.
Inuit face numerous challenges with the food system related to the interplay of availability, quality, and accessibility of both market and country foods.
Lack of market food supplies: communities experience market food supply shortages due to weather conditions, cargo prioritization and other factors that can prevent food shipments from being delivered.
Deceased wildlife populations/changes in wildlife distribution: animal species are facing a variety of changes to their health and ranges due to climate change, industrialization and other factors.
Nutritionally poor/spoiled market food: the quality of food, particularly nutritious perishables can be poor in Inuit communities as they are prone to spoilage when shipped long distances from southern areas. Furthermore, the presence of contaminants, such as heavy metals, have been detected in the Arctic food system (species of plants, fish, birds, etc.).
High costs of market food: the cost of food can be significantly high in communities compared to other southern areas.
High cost of hunting equipment: the purchase of gas, ammunition, snow machines, boats and motors can be very high in Inuit communities.
For Inuit, the impacts of food insecurity extend beyond physical health ramifications; the lack of adequate access to food is inherently a human rights issue because its consequences extend into other realms of mental, social, and cultural well-being. As with most issues, food insecurity in the North disproportionately affects Inuit women. For example, the overall vitamin intake is low for Inuit women, with 91% not consuming sufficient magnesium in addition to lower levels of calcium and fiber consumption (Boult/NAHO). This not only affects the quality of life and health of Inuit women, but it also cultivates the conditions for dangerous pregnancies reinforced by the lack of adequate access/availability of quality food.