-Nutrition North Canada appoints First Nations expert

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Nutrition North Canada (NNC) has appointed a new member to its advisory board.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister Bernard Valcourt appointed Tracy Rispin to the NNC Advisory Board March 27.  The minister cited Rispin’s “extensive knowledge of First Nations issues,” along with her desire to help meet the specific needs of Northern communities.

According to her biography posted on the NNC’s website, Rispin is a heritage interpreter of the Yukon’s Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. She also served as the community’s Deputy Chief.  Her biography states that in addition to holding a number of heritage and cultural positions over the course of her career, Rispin has work experience related to resource management and finance and is an independent filmmaker.

The NNC was formed in 2011 with funding from the Canadian government as part of its Northern Strategy; a four-pronged approach whose primary objectives are listed on their website as: Exercising Canada’s sovereignty over its Arctic territories; conserving northern ecosystems and species; promoting economic and social development amongst Northern communities; and “devolving” governance to provide more autonomy to the territories, especially concerning the management land and resources.

NNC is a government-subsidized program, which functions under the supervision of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), to provide Northern communities with increased access to various perishable food items from the southern regions of the country (such as eggs, beef, milk, fruit and vegetables), as well as increasing access to traditional Arctic food sources such as Arctic char and caribou.

Last month, Dennis Bevington, the NDP MP for the Northwest Territories, proposed a series of changes that would help ensure that the food subsidy reaches communities as intended. He also demanded greater transparency and alterations to eligibility criteria for communities based on “real circumstances.”  These demands were followed by an announcement from the federal government that all Nutrition North retailers must make their profit margin data available to independent auditors to verify they are passing the subsidy on to their customers in full. The NNC Advisory Board also said it plans to further address the issue by demanding that all store proprietors receiving subsidized goods issue savings receipts to their customers at point of sale.

According to results published on the government’s website, by March 2014, three years after the founding of the NNC, the average price for a food basket for a family of four had fallen by more than 7%, which was calculated to represent a total savings of $137 per month. Further, the website reported increases in the gross weight of “eligible food items being shipped to northern isolated communities of approximately 25%.”

NNC has received close to $60 million in base funding each year since 2011, with funding increasing each year in order to keep pace with growing demand. For the 2015-2016 fiscal year, NNC will receive a food subsidy budget of $68.5 million.

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