A boy reaches for a can on a grocery shelf

Rising food prices: How Indigenous communities are responding

A boy reaches for a can on a grocery shelf
Photo: OCIC/Allan Lissner

UPDATE, December 2022: Food prices have now risen by over 10% in Canada. Need has risen sharply, and donation dollars don't go as far. Learn more in this article from Global News, featuring an interview with Canadian Feed The Children.



In May 2022, the UN Security Council met to address the global hunger crisis. This is unprecedented – the council usually meets to discuss global threats such as war. For hunger to rise to this level was unthinkable until now.  

This global crisis is affecting families in every community we partner with, including in Indigenous communities in Canada. Food prices have grown significantly, making life much harder for families, especially in remote Indigenous communities.

Why are food prices rising? 

Canada is not the only country experiencing rising food prices and hunger. This is a global phenomenon. Here are some reasons why:

  • Economic crisis caused by COVID-19 
  • Climate change is wiping out crops and livelihoods around the world
  • Conflicts around the world are throwing families into severe food insecurity 
  • Supply chain issues are slowing down food production  
  • High inflation worldwide is driving up food costs

The end result is that 58.6 million more people are going hungry worldwide. For more, read this tweet thread by David McNair. 

    How does this affect Canadian food prices? 

    In Canada food prices are continuing to rise. In December 2021, Canada’s Food Price Report predicted a 5% to 7% rise in food prices for the year 2022.

    This was before the conflict in Ukraine began. Today, grocery prices are up by nearly 9%, according to the Consumer Price Index from Statistics Canada. 

        What does this mean for food prices in Indigenous communities? 

        For remote Indigenous communities, food prices were already up to 2.5 times higher than the national average. This means that the 9% increase can actually feel more like 20%.  

        Ernie Bussidor is the former chief of the Sayisi Dene First Nation in Manitoba, one of CFTC’s Indigenous partner communities. In a recent interview with the CBC, he notes that high gas prices were also making it very hard to afford food, especially during this past winter, when gas ran out and had to be flown in at a high cost.  

        In short, many Indigenous families are finding it much more difficult to put food on the table.

         

        Potato harvest in Sembaa K'e First Nation, NWT

        Potato harvest in Sembaa K'e First Nation, NWT

        Four ways communities are responding to rising food prices 

        Each of the 31 Indigenous communities we partner with has a different approach to helping families who need extra support at this time. Some of these responses include: 

        • Gardening programs to supply fresh food during the summer.  
        • Indoor growing programs to grow fresh produce year round 
        • Food forests continue to be developed in four communities in Alberta and Saskatchewan, which also include seasonal gardens for an immediate supply of produce 
        • Traditional food harvesting for protein like fish, moose, caribou and other wild game, along with berries and medicinal plants  

        Youth in Lubicon Lake First Nation

        Youth learning on the land in Lubicon Lake Nation, AB.

        “Food sovereignty helps everybody.” 

        The world is changing rapidly, and communities continue to respond as best they can to new challenges. In all cases, food sovereignty is the ultimate goal. It’s a return to local food systems that will create a food secure future for Indigenous children. While current challenges remain, children and families are already benefitting from learning how to eat sustainably from the land through traditional food practices.  

        In Lubicon Lake, seven-year-old Malaika and her mother told us about the community programs that have been helping people feed their families. Her mother says: 

        “[Traditional food practices are] important to us because when we go hunting, we don’t just do it for ourselves, we give it out to those who need it most. Lots of people live on social assistance, so traveling to buy groceries takes a good chunk of their money. Food sovereignty helps everybody.” - Loretta, Lubicon Lake Band

         

        Your support makes a difference 

        We thank everyone who has supported Indigenous food sovereignty through their donations to programs like these. Your support has been crucial to community success thus far. The need is growing, and your support can make a big impact to help families who need it most.

         

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