Experiencing some sticker shock in the grocery store? You’re not alone. Families spent an average of $325 more on food in 2015 than a year earlier.
In 2016, households can anticipate another similar increase to their grocery bill, according to a report from the University of Guelph.
What is even more alarming is that fruits and vegetables, the cornerstones of a healthy diet, are the foods most vulnerable to currency fluctuation as 81% of all vegetables and fruits consumed in Canada are imported.
This impacts the ability of many Manitobans to access healthy foods. People are forced to make difficult decisions as they try to stretch their grocery budget.
Yet higher food prices are nothing new to northern Manitobans.
In Winnipeg, the average family spends $8,256 on food every year. The same groceries would cost $14,300 in Fox Lake Cree Nation and a whopping $23,296 in Shamattawa.
And the price of groceries isn’t the only barrier Manitobans living in the north face in securing healthy, affordable food.
Many northern communities, like Fox Lake Cree Nation, don’t have a grocery store of their own. Residents have to make the 45-minute drive to Gillam to pick up most food items.
Despite, or perhaps because of these challenges, northern Manitobans are reclaiming food skills essential for building healthy futures.
In South Indian Lake, a community of almost 800 people located just over 1,000 km north of Winnipeg, a country food program supports wild food gathering activities such as hunting, fishing and medicine harvesting.
The program provides food for Elders, single parents and low-income community members. In addition, the initiative employs high school students, helping them gain the tools and resources needed to access their own good food.
The country food program in South Indian Lake is just one example of how communities across Manitoba’s north are facing the challenge of accessing food.
Food Matters Manitoba believes all Manitobans deserve access to the healthy food they need.
As a registered charity, FMM partners with communities so everyone can get the good food they deserve. Working together, food has become more available and affordable through local gardens and greenhouses, as kids and families discover how to prepare healthy meals at community cooking classes.
Kids from Shamattawa are digging their hands in the dirt and learning how to grow their own food. By gardening, community members gain new skills on how to obtain healthy, affordable food.
Families living in Sherridon are raising their own chickens both for meat and eggs. Using recently learned skills, they’re discovering new ways to produce healthy meat.
And hunters in Lac Brochet distribute traditional food to Elders and families in need. They store their fish, caribou and berries in a community freezer.
Food Matters Manitoba believes together we can make Manitoba a healthier place, where everyone has good food. Rising prices can be a reminder to all of us that many Manitobans struggle to access healthy foods they require, especially in regions of our province where people pay two to three times as much for food.
To learn more about Food Matters Manitoba and their community-based good food work in northern Manitoba, visit foodmattersmanitoba.ca