How Nutrition North Canada works

COVID-19: Program enhancements

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, and to support food security in isolated communities, enhancements have been made to the Nutrition North Canada subsidy program to give Northerners in these communities better access and more savings on nutritious foods and essential items.

We have increased subsidy rates and expanded the list of food and essential items subsidized when shipped by air to all 116 Nutrition North Canada eligible communities.

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What is Nutrition North Canada?

Nutrition North Canada (NNC) is a Government of Canada program that helps make nutritious food and some essential items more affordable and more accessible. NNC helps eligible northern communities in 3 ways:

How the subsidy works

NNC subsidizes a list of nutritious eligible foods, as well as certain non-food items such as diapers and soap, hand-sanitizers and personal hygiene products, 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 suppliers.

The retail subsidy is applied against the total cost of an eligible product (including product purchasing cost, transportation, insurance and overhead) shipped by air, ice road, sealift or barge to an eligible community. This means that the price you pay for these items is cheaper than it otherwise would be.

These businesses must pass on the full subsidy to consumers.

If you have a business that operates in or serves one or more of our eligible communities and are interested in registering with NNC, visit For retailers and suppliers.

How to access the subsidy

If you live in an eligible Northern community, there are 2 ways you can access the subsidy.

Shopping at a registered retailer

When you shop at a registered NNC retailer, the price of eligible food reflects the NNC subsidy. At larger stores, the savings will be displayed on your receipt.

Making a direct order

When you order directly from a registered supplier, the NNC subsidy is automatically deducted from the price of all eligible items. Individuals, schools, restaurants and small retailers can access direct orders. This option helps preserve competition among northern retailers and provides consumers with flexibility related to special dietary needs.

To place a direct order:

  • pick a supplier from the list of registered suppliers
  • place your order with your chosen supplier by phone or email

Your savings will be shown on your invoice.

Sample point-of-sale in-store receipt

Larger NNC retailers across the North are required to display the NNC subsidy on customers' receipts.

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

Nutrition North Canada Receipt
Figure 1: Receipt from Iqaluit, NU – NorthMart store showing savings resulting from the NNC subsidy
Description of the Receipt from North West Co, NorthMart store

The image is of a receipt from North West Co, NorthMart store, Iqaluit, NU, which includes the money saved through the NNC subsidy for each item purchased by the customer. Items were purchased on June 11, 2020:

  • customer purchased cantaloupe large at $6.49, saving $5.74 through NNC subsidy
  • customer purchased carrots baby at $3.29, saving $1.67 through NNC subsidy
  • customer purchased peppers mixed at $8.99, saving $2.03 through NNC subsidy
  • customer purchased cucumbers at $5.99, saving $1.22 through NNC subsidy
  • customer purchased tomatoes grape at $2.99, saving $1.11 through NNC subsidy
  • the Subtotal came to $27.75, which includes $11.77 savings through NNC subsidy

NNC saved the customer $11.77 on their purchases. The original receipt is required within 30 days for a refund.

Subsidy levels

NNC subsidies apply to all eligible items shipped to eligible communities by air, ice road, sealift or barge. Subsidy rates vary depending on:

Eligible communities and their subsidy rates

Eligible food and non-food items

By air

There are 3 subsidy levels for items shipped by air:

  • high
  • medium
  • low

Items subsidized under each level are determined with input from Indigenous and community partners and include culturally appropriate and nutritious foods. More savings are provided to the most nutritious, perishable foods. In addition, savings are provided to less perishable foods and essential non-food items.

Seasonal surface transportation

Eligible communities that use winter roads, sealifts or barges to ship food seasonally receive a flat subsidy rate of $1/kg.

For country and traditional foods

NNC subsidizes commercially-inspected country and traditional foods such as Arctic char, caribou, goose and muktuk when purchased from a local store or processing plant recognized by the program. There are currently 3 country food processors registered with NNC:

  • Kivalliq Arctic Foods Ltd. (Rankin Inlet, NU)
  • Pangnirtung Fisheries Ltd. (Pangnirtung, NU)
  • Kitikmeot Food Ltd (Cambridge, NU)

Budget

NNC has a subsidy budget of $103,158,558 for fiscal year 2020 to 2021. This budget grows by 5% each year in an attempt to keep pace with population growth, inflation, and the high costs of operating in isolated northern communities.

The Harvesters Support Grant provides $40 million over 5 years, and $8 million per year ongoing, to Indigenous governments and organizations representing eligible NNC communities

Compliance reviews

NNC is committed to ensuring that its operations are transparent.

Retailers and suppliers submit monthly claims outlining how many kilograms of eligible items they shipped to eligible communities. These claims are reviewed independently by an accredited third-party to ensure that the NNC subsidy was applied correctly. Once a claim is reviewed, NNC reimburses the retailer or supplier for the amount recommended by the third party.

Each year, a sample of registered retailers and suppliers are chosen to undergo a compliance review. This process helps determine whether they are complying with the terms and conditions of the funding agreement they signed with Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) and are transferring the subsidy to customers. The compliance reviews are also conducted by an independent and accredited 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. Once notified, they can 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.

List of northern retailers and suppliers

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