I’ve worked in Barrow Alaska, and they are not even exaggerating when they talk about these high prices - while it’s true that there are added costs to flying or barging in food, many of these prices are still hyperinflated above those additions because of the monopoly position of the distributors.
The idea of holding an Arctic-wide boycott of North West-owned stores was initiated by Inuk activist Leesie Papatsie from Iqaluit, Nunavut. Leesie started a Facebook group called Feeding My Family that has served to educate thousands of Canadians about staggering food costs in the Arctic, and how these costs are due in part to the monopoly power of North West in many communities.
The practice of price gouging at North West stores has contributed to too many families not having enough food to eat.
In the majority Inuit territory of Nunavut, for example, 70 percent of preschool-age Inuit children live in homes where there isn’t enough food. Led by Papatsie, Inuit gathered outside of Northern stores across Nunavut in 2012 to protest high food prices.
Recently, the Huffington Post ran a story about a family of nine in Nunavut sharing a two-bedroom apartment with not enough food to eat. This is a familiar situation in rural Alaska as well, with the major difference being that we lack the research and accompanying media attention about this problem.
Pictures of Northern food prices on the Feeding My Family Facebook page will look familiar to anyone who has ever shopped at AC. At the AC store in Kotzebue you will find $11 gallons of milk, $12 cartons of orange juice, $7 loaves of bread, eggs for $6.50 a dozen, 5-pound bags of carrots going for $12, small containers of blueberries for $9, and $3.60 cans of fruit.