The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Food Security and Food Sovereignty in Nunavut Communities

  • Author / Creator
    Horlick, Sidney A.
  • Background: For those living in regions already experiencing health and social difficulties, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting policies to reduce spread have the potential to exacerbate existing issues, including increasing food insecurity in households. In Nunavut, where 70% of children are food insecure, many households rely on school breakfast or community food programs for nourishment (Egeland, 2011). As a result of the threat of the pandemic to the territory’s population, a variety of public health measures were enacted that may have impacted food security, including the closure of schools. Additional actions were taken, such as implementing emergency harvester support funding, to limit the impact of public health measures on household and community food security. The overall impact of these actions on community food sovereignty and security is not yet understood.
    Objectives: This research project has several inter-related objectives:
    a) Describe the measures in place to mitigate impacts of COVID-19 on food security and sovereignty in Nunavut.
    b) To describe determinants of food security and food sovereignty in Nunavut and how the COVID-19 pandemic policy response in the territory has impacted these determinants.
    c) Understand how community members perceive the impact of the pandemic on food security and sovereignty in their communities.
    Method: This project used a mixed methods approach to examine the determinants of food security and sovereignty and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic policy responses on these determinants in Arviat and Iqaluit. A social media scan was conducted to quantify and describe the food sharing that occurred in Nunavut communities in the initial shutdown period of March to June 2020. This data was utilized to provide context to the qualitative interviews. Narrative analysis utilized within a relational epistemology was used to described the experiences of community members in Iqaluit and Arviat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Results: Social media scan. 122 Facebook groups were identified with 116 included in the social media scan. 242 unique instances of food sharing were documented across Nunavut via social media within the study time frame. Most of the food shared was through food programs with store-bought food. For individuals sharing food, most was country food. Qualitative interviews. 7 participants were interviewed in Iqaluit (n = 3) and Arviat (n = 4). Key themes included the importance of decolonization for food sovereignty, the importance of food sharing to communities, and the resilience of communities during COVID-19. Food programs were impacted by COVID-19 varyingly, with some ceasing operations to others finding ways to adapt to continue to serve clients. Canada Emergency Response Benefit launch was correlated with a drop in food program utilization in Iqaluit. Food sovereignty was boosted during the COVID-19 pandemic due to increased time at home and on-the-land funding programs. Community members wished to see greater support and strengthening of the country food economy, encouragement/self-worth for youth, community programs to increase knowledge of food and harvesting skill, and for communities to find ways to reach residents who may fall through the cracks during times of need or crisis.
    Conclusion: This study is one of the first to document the experiences of Nunavummiut in Arviat and Iqaluit during the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on food security and food sovereignty in the territory. Further study is needed to document the full range of impacts of the pandemic across the territory.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.