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Frequently Asked Questions: Transition from Food Mail Program to Nutrition North Canada

Why is the Government of Canada making changes to Nutrition North Canada before the program is fully launched?

We’ve listened to the concerns of Northerners who asked for more time to adjust to the new program. Therefore the Government of Canada has temporarily suspended the October 3, 2021 changes to the food eligibility list.

Nutrition North Canada takes into account an extended timeline that ensures consumers can properly benefit from these changes.

Unlike the Food Mail Program, which operated with little direct input from Northerners, Nutrition North Canada was developed based on engagement with the communities it is designed to benefit. This includes receiving regular input from the Northerners who are members of the program’s Advisory Board. These Board members will serve as a direct voice for Northerners regarding the Nutrition North Canada program.

Are further changes to the program expected?

The Nutrition North Canada Program will continue to evolve based on the advice of the Advisory Board and input from Northerners and stakeholders.

What are the key features of Nutrition North Canada?

Nutrition North Canada will officially come into effect on April 1, 2021 and will promote healthy food choices for eligible communities in the North through a Government of Canada subsidy agreement made directly with retailers.

Nutrition North Canada program features include:

  • A higher subsidy level for the most nutritious, perishable foods such as fruits, vegetables, bread, meat, milk and eggs.

  • Eligible foods with longer shelf-lives, such as all-purpose flour, crackers, and frozen combination foods (e.g., pizza, lasagna), will be subsidized at a lower level.

  • Nutrition education activities, funded by Health Canada will be held in retail and community settings.

  • An External Advisory Board has recently been announced that will ensure Northerners have a say in how Nutrition North Canada works.

What is the difference between the Food Mail Program and Nutrition North Canada?

Since the 1960s, the Food Mail Program has provided an air transportation subsidy via Canada Post to reduce the cost of shipping nutritious food and other essential items to northern and isolated communities. Following stakeholder engagement sessions held over the past several years, it was decided a new, market-driven approach was needed to increase access to the most nutritious foods.

Nutrition North Canada, to be launched April 1, 2011, will help ensure eligible, isolated Northern communities have access to nutritious foods. Food suppliers registered with the new Program will receive funding based on the total kilogram weight of eligible foods shipped by air to each eligible community, and will be accountable for passing on these savings to their customers.

How will the switch from the Food Mail Program to Nutrition North Canada affect Northerners?

In order to allow Northerners time to adjust to Nutrition North Canada, the Government of Canada has made temporary adjustments to the Nutrition North Canada eligibility list. This change will be in effect from April 1, 2021 until October 2012.

The way Northerners shop for groceries in their communities will stay the same and they will still be able to place personal orders. The difference under Nutrition North Canada will be that the Government of Canada will directly subsidize retailers and wholesalers registered with the new program.

How will the Nutrition North Canada subsidy work?

Nutrition North Canada will provide funding directly to retailers and wholesalers who are registered with the new program. This ability to combine all of their air cargo will enable them to negotiate the best possible price for their consumers. Retailers and suppliers also have the choice to use sealift and winter roads as a more economical option to transport non-perishable items.

Food suppliers will receive funding based on the total kilogram weight of eligible foods shipped by air to each eligible community, and will be accountable for passing on these savings to their customers.

Individuals, commercial establishments and social institutions will also be able to place personal orders and will benefit from the subsidy. This provision will be retained to preserve a measure of competition for Northern retailers and to provide consumers with flexibility related to special dietary needs.

How much funding is the Government of Canada allocating to Nutrition North Canada?

The Government of Canada has committed ongoing funding of $60 million annually. An additional $15 - 20 million has been allocated to support needed adjustments for the transition period.

How were the Nutrition North Canada subsidy rates determined?

Introductory subsidy rates, developed on a per community basis, were established to allocate the program's budget fairly and equitably. This rate schedule was developed using a comparative analysis of:

  • actual market shipping costs per community; and

  • estimates of the weights of eligible goods that are projected to be shipped to each community under Nutrition North Canada. These estimates are based on the weight of perishable food shipped under the Food Mail Program in 2009-2010.

When will the new subsidy rates take effect?

The new subsidy rates will take effect on April 1, 2011, with the launch of Nutrition North Canada.

Why were changes made to the eligibility list in October 2010?

INAC received input during extensive public engagement sessions. Consumers and stakeholders overwhelmingly believed that the program should target its funding towards nutritious perishable food that must be flown-in rather than spreading it to other items that do not require expensive air transportation. This input, together with advice from Health Canada, prompted the department to make the following changes to the eligibility list:

  • A higher level of subsidy will apply to the most nutritious perishable foods such as fruits, vegetables, bread, meat, milk and eggs.

  • Eligible foods with longer shelf-lives, such as all-purpose flour, crackers, and frozen combination foods (e.g., pizza, lasagna), will be subsidized at a lower level.

  • Certain foods with high fat, sugar, sodium or low nutrient content have been removed from the eligibility list.

  • All non-food items and most non-perishable foods were removed from the eligibility list for communities with marine service (those accessible by sealift, ferry, barge).

The revised list of eligible foods better reflects key Health Canada nutrition policies such as Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide   and Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide – First Nations, Inuit and Métis  , which promote a pattern of healthy eating choices over a lifetime.

After listening to the concern of Northerners, the Government of Canada has temporarily suspended the October 3, 2021 changes.

Why are the items previously subsidized under the Food Mail Program being temporarily reinstated?

Changes to the eligibility list are being phased in over a longer period of time to allow Northerners and retailers more time to adjust to the new program. This will give Northerners and retailers sufficient time to plan for the full transition to the Nutrition North Canada program, especially with respect to the shift towards healthy food choices.

What changes came into effect on October 3, 2021 under the Food Mail Program?

On October 3, 2010, some perishable items of low nutritional value were removed from the Food Mail Program eligibility list. As well, all non-food items and most non-perishable foods were removed from the Food Mail Program for communities with marine service (those accessible by sealift, ferry, barge).

Certain foods with high fat, sugar, sodium or low nutrient content have been removed from the eligibility list so that greater focus can be placed on the most nutritious foods. Non-food items and non-perishable foods which are no longer subsidized will continue to be available in communities. These items are generally shipped using more cost effective means such as the sealift and winter roads.

Will individuals still be able to place personal orders?

Individuals, establishments and social institutions can still place personal orders and will benefit from the new subsidy beginning in April. This provision will be retained to preserve a measure of competition for Northern retailers and to provide consumers with flexibility related to special dietary needs.

Will Nutrition North Canada include subsidies for traditional or country foods?

The importance of country and traditional foods such as Arctic char, caribou and muskox, was considered as part of the Food Mail Program review, therefore for the first time ever, country foods will be subsidized. Country foods produced in or distributed by Northern federally-regulated country food processors/distributors and/or approved-for-export, commercial plants will be eligible for a per kilogram subsidy calculated using the distance between the departure point and the destination community. The Government of Canada will continue to work with partners to promote access to traditional or country food through Nutrition North Canada.

What is the role of the Nutrition North Canada External Advisory Board?

As set out in the Nutrition North Advisory Board Terms of Reference  , the Board will represent a wide range of the primary perspectives and interests of northern residents and communities. Board members will serve in their own right and not as representatives of any particular organization, or special interest.

Who are the members of the Nutrition North Canada External Advisory Board?

The External Advisory Board Members are:

Elizabeth Copland, Nunavut, Chair  
Wilfred Wilcox, Nunavut  
Nellie Cournoyea, Northwest Territories  
Katherine Nukon, Yukon  
Steve McDougall, Manitoba  
Marie-Josée Gauthier, Nunavik  
Michele Wood, Labrador  

How can Northerners communicate with the Advisory Board?

The Board will work closely with all stakeholders, community representatives and interested parties who wish to provide information, data, insights and points of view that could contribute constructively to the program.

You have also appointed a Technical Advisor to the Nutrition North Canada External Advisory Board. Why? What is her role?

Danielle Medina   has been appointed as Technical Advisor to the Nutrition North External Advisory Board. Ms. Medina will provide expert advice to the Board in specific areas including food distribution and retailing, health and nutrition and transport. The technical advisor will enable the Board to review and consider detailed aspects of the program as it provides advice to the Minister on how the program can best serve the needs of Northerners.

What is Health Canada's involvement in the new program?

New retail and community-based nutrition education initiatives are being introduced as part of this program to develop knowledge and skills around selecting and preparing healthy store-bought and traditional or country foods to promote healthy eating.

What is happening to Canada Post's distribution role?

Canada Post will continue to administer the Food Mail program until March 31, 2011. Effective April 1, 2011, Canada Post will no longer play a role in the provision of transportation and logistics services under the new Nutrition North Canada program. Retailers/suppliers wanting to participate in Nutrition North Canada will be solely responsible for negotiating their own shipping arrangements and shipping rates with air carriers.

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Date Modified:
2021-03-11