Nutrition North Canada programs results

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Results from 2011-2016

The results are clear – Nutrition North Canada (NNC) has succeeded in reducing prices of eligible food in isolated northern communities, and in increasing the amount of perishable nutritious food available.

Between April 2011 and March 2015, the cost of the Revised Northern Food Basket for a family of four was on average 5 percent or approximately $94 per month lower than in March 2011. According to Statistics Canada, food prices elsewhere in Canada increased by approximately 9.9 percent during the same time period, or more than 4 percent in 2014-2015. Between 2011 and 2016, the average volume of eligible items shipped to northern isolated communities increased by approximately 25 percent, compared to the final year of the Food Mail Program. About 127.8 million kilograms of eligible items were subsidized, an average increase of about 5.5 million kilograms annually; and 103 isolated northern communities benefited from NNC.

Results also indicate that the nutrition education initiatives funded by Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada have increased knowledge of healthy eating and improved skills to choose and prepare nutritious foods. In 2015-16, more than 1,500 nutrition education activities were delivered in communities. Outcomes observed by NNC community workers include: increased awareness of healthy foods; interest and skills in gardening, healthy eating, and cooking; children and youth preparing food for others; demand for certain activities (e.g. community cooking sessions); and partnerships in the community.

How the subsidy was spent in 2015-2016

In 2015-2016, 96 percent of NNC's food subsidy was spent on perishable nutritious food. This pie graph shows how much of the subsidy was spent in each food category, including country food. The 96 percent was calculated by adding the four largest subsidized food categories together (37% + 25% + 22% + 12% = 96%). For more information, see the Nutrition North Canada Reports on the subsidy.

How the subsidy was spent
How the subsidy was spent
Perishable fruits and vegetables, including juice Milk and perishable dairy products Perishable meat and alternatives Bread, cereal, and perishable grain products Perishable combination foods Margarine, oil, and other fats Other (includes country food)
37% 25% 22% 12% 2% 1% 1%

Revised Northern Food Basket

The Revised Northern Food Basket (RNFB) measures the cost of a nutritious diet for a family of four for one week using 67 standard food items. It is used by NNC to monitor the cost of healthy eating in isolated northern communities.

The food in the basket weighs approximately 52 kilograms. It was chosen based on food consumption surveys of Inuit and First Nations conducted by INAC and other researchers. Some food items were replaced with more nutritious alternatives (for example, canola oil replaces corn oil) and the quantity of some food items was adjusted, where necessary, to meet the recommendations in Canada's Food Guide.

Each month registered northern retailers provide retail prices for the food in the RNFB. INAC reviews the food prices and calculates the cost of the RNFB using average community food prices. INAC follows up with individual retailers if there are any missing or irregular prices. This information is also used to make decisions about subsidy rates and eligible communities.

Not all of the food in the RNFB is eligible for a subsidy because it is cheaper for retailers and customers to ship non-perishable food such as rice and dry pasta by winter roads, sealift or barge. Find out more on the eligible food webpage.

What is in the RNFB?
Category Food Quantity Unit of measure
Dairy products 2% milk, fresh or UHT 4.76 L
Mozzarella cheese 0.485 kg
Processed cheese slices 0.385 kg
Yogurt 1.67 kg
Evaporated 2% milk 1.58 L
Skim milk powder 0.09 kg
Meat and alternatives Large eggs 8 eggs
Chicken drumsticks 2.68 kg
Pork chops, loin centre-cut 1.21 kg
Ground beef, lean 1.34 kg
T-bone steak 0.47 kg
Sliced ham 0.135 kg
Frozen fish sticks 0.135 kg
Canned pink salmon 0.27 kg
Canned sardines in soya oil 0.27 kg
Canned ham 0.2 kg
Bologna 0.06 kg
Wieners 0.1 kg
Peanut butter 0.09 kg
Canned pork-based luncheon meat 0.05 kg
Canned corned beef 0.04 kg
Canned beans with pork 0.29 L
Canned beef stew 0.18 kg
Canned spaghetti sauce with meat 0.155 L
Grain products Bread, enriched white 0.66 kg
Bread, 100% whole wheat 0.66 kg
Flour, all purpose 1.92 kg
Pilot biscuits 0.275 kg
Macaroni or spaghetti 0.385 kg
Rice, long-grain parboiled white 0.33 kg
Rolled oats 0.275 kg
Corn flakes 0.44 kg
Macaroni and cheese dinner 0.55 kg
Fruit and vegetables Oranges 1.23 kg
Apple juice, frozen concentrate 0.033 L
Orange juice, frozen concentrate 0.282 L
Apple juice, TetraPak 0.88 L
Orange juice, TetraPak 0.375 L
Canned whole tomatoes 0.215 L
Canned tomato sauce 0.3 L
Apples 4.38 kg
Bananas 3.58 kg
Grapes 0.5 kg
Canned fruit cocktail in juice 0.855 L
Canned peaches in juice 0.285 L
Canned pineapple in juice 0.285 L
Fresh potatoes 3 kg
Frozen French fries 0.48 kg
Instant potato flakes 0.22 kg
Carrots 2 kg
Onions 0.695 kg
Cabbage 0.52 kg
Turnips 0.35 kg
Frozen broccoli 0.695 kg
Frozen carrots 0.26 kg
Frozen corn 0.26 kg
Frozen mixed vegetables 1.74 kg
Canned green peas 0.9 L
Canned kernel corn 1.09 L
Canned green beans 0.315 L
Canned carrots 0.325 L
Canned mixed vegetables 0.545 L
Oils, fats and sugar Margarine, non-hydrogenated 0.715 kg
Butter 0.065 kg
Canola oil 0.185 L
Lard 0.105 kg
Sugar, white 0.6 kg

Average community food prices

The cost of the basket is calculated using an average price for each of the 67 food items it contains. The average price is for a specific package size based on all brands available in the store. For example, in the case of fresh 2% milk, the average price of a 2L carton (the most popular size) is determined using the price of every brand of milk available in the store. This is used to calculate the cost of 4.76L of 2% milk, the total amount in the RNFB.

If more than one store provided price information for a particular community, an average of all stores is used to determine the RNFB cost for that community.

In some communities, the RNFB cost is not available because there is only one store in the community and it is not a registered NNC northern retailer, or the price data is not complete, or not available for all periods.

Sometimes, the RNFB in communities with two stores is calculated using prices from only one store because one of the stores is not registered with NNC but accesses the subsidy by purchasing products from registered southern suppliers, or the price data from one store is not complete, or not available from both stores for all periods.

Find out more in the annual reports on the cost of the RNFB published by INAC as part of its commitment to transparency.

From Food Mail to Nutrition North Canada

Available in Inuktitut (HTML)

After a series of reviews and evaluations, Nutrition North Canada (NNC) replaced the Food Mail program as of April 1, 2011. NNC addresses the weaknesses of the previous program including food eligibility, public awareness of the program, transparency and accountability in shipping and food prices, delivery logistics and the need for culturally appropriate food in the North. Over-all results from the first five years of NNC can be found in the Results from 2011 to 2016 section. More specific food savings results for two communities, Rankin Inlet and Tuktoyaktuk can be found in this table. According to the most recent data available, the cost of the Revised Northern Food Basket decreased by 3.5 percent between March 2011 and March 2015 in Rankin Inlet; and by 10.2 percent in Tuktoyaktuk. The food price data used in this table was provided by NorthWest Company, a registered Northern retailer with NNC.

Nutrition North Canada savings
Item Rankin Inlet
(Beaufort Delta)
Cost before NNC
(March 2011)
Cost after NNC
(March 2016)
Savings Cost before NNC
(March 2011)
Cost after NNC
(March 2016)
Milk – 2% 2L $7.29 $4.29 $3.00 $8.49 $6.59 $1.90
Medium Cheddar
300 g
$8.59 $8.49 $0.10 $8.99 $8.59 $0.40
Eggs – 12 large white $4.39 $2.70 $1.69 $4.89 $4.19 $0.70
Bread – White Sliced (567-570) $4.19 $3.04 $1.15 $4.54 $2.98 $1.56
Apples – 3lb $7.09 $6.85 $0.24 $11.69 $8.69 $3.00

Questions and answers about the two programs

Questions Former Food Mail Current Nutrition North Canada
Does the program target its funding to nutritious perishable food?
Funding targeted less nutritious items and non-food items.
The Eligible food list focuses on the most nutritious and perishable food.It was developed in conjunction with Health Canada to encourage and support healthy eating on a community basis.
Transportation efficiency
Does the program encourage efficiency in the delivery of perishable food?
The program was designed to ship "mail" not food.
Retailers and suppliers optimize the efficient delivery of nutritious, perishable food to diminish spoilage and lengthen shelf life.
Program accountability
Does the program ensure the subsidy is passed on to consumers?
There were no requirements for retailers or transporters to provide their sales information to the Department.
INAC closely monitors retailers and suppliers' compliance with regards to the obligations under their funding agreements, including verifying that they are passing on the value of the subsidy to customers. Compliance reports
are posted online. As of April 1, 2015, a new clause will be added to funding agreements that specifies that recipients must provide all the information on eligible items, including current profit margins and profit margins over time.
Program transparency
Does the program have open and transparent operations?
The program was not designed to collect data.
Data and reports
are posted online for community members and interested individuals.
Does the program have a means to regularly involve Northerners in guiding the activities and direction of the program?
There was no governance structure within the program that enabled the participation of the communities served by the program.  

The NNC Advisory Board gives Northerners a direct voice in the program. When the Advisory Board holds meetings in the North, it always includes a public meeting portion to hear directly from northern residents and communities. Board members are also Northern residents.

The 2016 NNC Engagement sought input from Northerners and other stakeholders. It will be used to inform policy options to update the program so that it serves Northerners in a more transparent, cost-effective, and culturally appropriative manner.

Does the program ensure program awareness in the communities?
Retailers were not required to support in-store communications about the program or demonstrate the dollar value of the subsidy being passed on to the consumer.
In-store communications show the dollar value of the subsidy in each community. The implementation of a point-of-sale system was made mandatory for NNC retailers across the north by April 1, 2016. This new system provided greater transparency and accountability by ensuring that customers can clearly see, on their grocery receipt, how and when the NNC subsidy is applied when shopping in registered NNC retailers. Also, culturally-appropriate retail and community-based nutrition education initiatives are offered.
Country food
Does the program subsidize country or traditional foods?
The transport of country food between northern communities was not subsidized.
Country foods processed by government-regulated plants in the North are eligible for a retail subsidy. This subsidy supports more efficient distribution of country foods among eligible communities.
Are there controls in place to ensure that northern retailers are using the subsidy for its intended purpose?
There were no monitoring or evaluation exercises that ensured the subsidy was being passed on to consumers.
NNC funding agreements require retailers and food suppliers to attest that the subsidy is being passed on to consumers and submit to audits as required. As of April 1, 2015, a new clause was added to funding agreements that specifies recipients must provide all the information on eligible items, including current profit margins and profit margins over time.

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