How Nutrition North Canada works

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What is Nutrition North Canada?

Nutrition North Canada (NNC) is a Government of Canada subsidy to help make perishable, nutritious food more affordable and more accessible.

NNC subsidizes a list of nutritious eligible foods, as well as certain non-food items such as diapers and non-prescription drugs, sold by registered retailers, suppliers, and country food processors.

Customers in eligible communities can purchase subsidized food from registered northern retailers or directly from registered southern suppliers or country food processors.

NNC is based on a market-driven model which promotes efficiency, cost-effectiveness and transparency. It provides a subsidy for the high cost of stocking and/or shipping certain items in the North. The subsidy is provided to retailers and suppliers that apply, and are selected, to register with the program. In turn, these businesses are responsible for passing on the full subsidy to consumers.

How the subsidy works

The subsidy is provided through retailers and suppliers that apply, and are selected, to register with the program. These businesses must pass on the full subsidy to consumers.

Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) closely monitors compliance and publishes regular compliance reviews to ensure transparency.

The retail subsidy is applied against the total cost of an eligible product (including product purchasing cost, transportation, insurance and overhead) shipped by air to an eligible community.

Sample point-of-sale in-store receipt

It is mandatory for NNC retailers across the North to display the NNC subsidy on customers' receipts. This ensures that customers can clearly see the subsidy amount for each item on their grocery receipt.

Watch a video about Nutrition North Canada's point-of-sale system

Nutrition North Canada Receipt
Description of the Receipt from Salluit Cooperative Association

The image is of a receipt from Salluit Cooperative Association, Salluit, QC, which includes the money saved through the NNC subsidy for each item purchased by the consumer. Items were purchased on March 27, 2015.

  • Consumer purchased Selection orient (frozen vegetables) at $5.89, saving $3.98 through NNC subsidy;
  • consumer purchased Selection apples at $6.19, saving $11.47 through NNC subsidy;
  • consumer purchased Post Cereal at $6.89, saving $2.55 through NNC subsidy;
  • consumer purchased jalapeno peppers at $3.99, saving $0.91 through NNC subsidy;
  • consumer purchased raspberries at $4.79 saving $1.18 through NNC subsidy;
  • consumer purchased Maple Leaf regular meat at $11.59, saving$1.27 through NNC subsidy;
  • consumer purchased Selection oranges at $2.79, saving $3.65 through NNC subsidy;
  • consumer purchased Natrel Ultra Tab (Cream) at $6.09, saving $1.61 through NNC subsidy;
  • The Subtotal came to $48.22 but with tax at $0.48, the total came to $48.70. The customer shopped at Store #1, was served at Station #21 and was helped by Cashier #3. The cashier was FCNQ.

The Nutrition North Canada Program saved the customer $26.63 on his/her purchases. Nutrition North Canada Subsidy has 2 levels: Level 1 being $5.20/Kg and level 2 being $3.40/Kg. The original receipt is required within 30 days for a refund.

Subsidy levels

Country food shipped by air has only 1 subsidy rate, but it varies according to the location of the country food processor or distributor and the eligible community.

Subsidy rates for country food

Certain eligible items shipped by seasonal ground transportation (winter road or barge) have a flat $1/kilogram rate across all NNC communities.

There are 3 levels of subsidy for other types of nutritious food shipped by air:

Eligible communities and their subsidy rates


When Nutrition North Canada launched in 2011, the Government of Canada invested $60 million per year, including $2.9 million for community-based nutrition education through Health Canada. In 2014, there was an increase of $11.3 million to the NNC subsidy budget and a new 5% annual compound escalator for the food subsidy budget to help it keep pace with the growing demand for nutritious food in the North. In 2016, NNC expanded to include 37 more isolated communities with an additional $64.5 million over 5 years, with $13.8 million per year allocated to expanding the program to support all isolated communities, which also included $4.7 million per year for community-based nutrition education initiatives.

In the 2018 Fall Economic Statement the Government proposes to invest an additional $62.6 million over 5 years starting in 2019-20, with $10.4 million ongoing, in the Nutrition North Canada program. This investment would help to support several program changes, informed by consultations with northerners, and to introduce a Harvesters Support Grant to help lower the high costs associated with traditional hunting and harvesting activities.

The overall NNC budget is approximately $99 million in 2018-2019.

Direct or personal orders

If a customer in an NNC eligible community wishes to purchase eligible items directly from a supplier instead of their local retailer, they can place a direct order. These are a useful option for individuals, schools, restaurants and even small retailers. This option helps preserve competition among northern retailers and provides consumers with flexibility related to special dietary needs.

To place a direct order:

Suppliers must pass on the subsidy to their customers. Your savings will be printed on your invoice.

Compliance reviews

NNC is committed to ensuring that its operations are transparent. Each year, a sample of northern retailers and southern suppliers are chosen to undergo a compliance review. This process can help determine whether they are complying with the terms and conditions of the funding agreement they signed with CIRNAC and are transferring the subsidy to customers. The compliance reviews are conducted by an independent third-party, not federal government employees. The reviews are posted online and available in the reports section.

The retailer or supplier is made aware during the review if any business practices or processes do not comply with their funding agreement. They may develop a solution on their own, or the reviewer may recommend specific changes to correct the situation. CIRNAC provides recommendations to the retailers or suppliers by letter and they are required to respond with proof that they have implemented a solution. Beginning with the 2013-2014 reviews, these letters are also available online in the status section of each compliance review. If the retailer or supplier continues to be non-compliant, the funding agreement can be terminated. This is a last resort option, and CIRNAC will work with the retailer or supplier to fix issues where possible to allow Northerners as much choice as possible.

Shoppers who are concerned about the cost of food items are encouraged to contact their local retailer or direct order provider. If you are not satisfied with the response, you can contact their head office. If it is a cooperative, another option is to become a member of the board.

List of registered northern retailers, southern suppliers and country food processors and distributors

Registered country food processors/distributors

Registered country food distributors Locations Payment method options
Kitikmeot Food Ltd
Phone: 867-983-2881
Fax: 867-983-2801
Cambridge Bay NU
  • please contact suppliers
Kivaliq Arctic Foods
Phone: 867-645-3137
Fax: 867-645-3467
Rankin Inlet NU
  • credit card (Visa/MasterCard)
  • cheque
  • purchase order
  • money order

Glossary of terms

Definitions for the terms used in the Nutrition North Canada program and on these web pages.

Commercially prepared food
Food that is prepared and distributed by food manufacturers, and that individuals typically buy in a store. This food can be fresh, frozen, raw or cooked and is usually pre-packaged.
Country food
Food obtained through local hunting, fishing or harvesting. Examples include caribou, ptarmigan, seal, Arctic char, shellfish and berries.
Country food processors/distributors
Government-regulated establishments that produce country food approved for export and are located in a community eligible for a subsidy under the program.
Direct orders
Individuals and certain institutions (for example, schools and daycares) in eligible communities are able to buy eligible subsidized items directly from a supplier in the South that is registered with the program and offers this service. Direct orders are often referred to as personal orders.
Eligible communities
Communities eligible for food subsidies. These communities lack year-round surface transportation.
Eligible food
Lists of the types of food which are eligible for a subsidy.
Non-food items
Items that are also eligible for a subsidy. For example, in all eligible communities, diapers and non-prescription drugs are subsidized. In Old Crow, Yukon, which rarely has access to surface transportation at any time of the year, other non-food items such as diapers, toilet paper and toothpaste are also subsidized.
Non-perishable food
Food which does not spoil quickly when stored at room temperature and has a shelf-life of more than 1 year. Examples include dry pasta, dehydrated vegetables and canned fruit.
Northern retailers
Retailers who operate stores located in eligible communities and who sell eligible food. These retailers are registered as a business with the Canada Revenue Agency and have a contribution agreement with CIRNAC to govern the funds (the subsidy) they receive under the program.
Perishable food
Food that spoils quickly especially if it is not stored at the proper temperature. Perishable food can be fresh or frozen or have a shelf-life of less than 1 year. Examples include meat, milk, bread, fresh vegetables and frozen fruit.
Personal orders
See Direct orders.
Retail subsidy
An amount of money that the federal government transfers to registered northern retailers and southern suppliers in the program to help reduce the cost of nutritious food in eligible isolated, northern communities. See How the subsidy works for more information.
Revised northern food basket
A list of 67 food items and quantities required to nutritiously feed a family of 4 for 1 week. See the Eligible food list for more information.
Southern suppliers
Retailers and wholesalers who operate a business located in Canada but not in a community eligible for the program and who sell food that is eligible under the program. They are registered as a business with the Canada Revenue Agency and have a contribution agreement with CIRNAC to govern the funds (the subsidy) they receive under the program. Southern suppliers provide eligible products to small northern retailers, eligible institutions, establishments and individuals living in an eligible community.
Surface transportation
Access to permanent road, rail or marine service.
Traditional food
See country food.
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