Freeze-up in Fort Simpson showcases food insecurity

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By Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

With the closure of the local ferry
on Wednesday, the Northwest Territories village of Fort Simpson must now wait weeks for the Liard River ice to settle before people and goods can cross by ice road.
The river separates the community of 1,200 people from the highway to Yellowknife and the south. When the ice freezes up in fall and breaks in spring, there's no way for vehicles to get in or out.
During those periods – which each last for weeks – helicopters carry food, people, and supplies into the community at nearly $300 per crossing. Hunted meat can help to fill the gap, but freeze-up is a time when everyday items and healthy food options can become costly.
Fort Simpson this year asked to participate in the federal Nutrition North program to offset some of the heightened costs during freeze-up, but the village is still waiting to hear if it qualifies.
Each year, the village's Northern grocery store ends its sales flyers when the ferry stops running. That means the last few weeks of sales at the Northern are an important opportunity to stock up before freeze-up.
Last month, a mix-up over when those sales should end – the flyers were inadvertently terminated earlier than they should have been, and the Northern subsequently restored some sale prices – highlighted both how reliant some residents are on the sales to make it through freeze-up, and the absence of any better food-security solutions.
David Adamson runs sales and operations for the N.W.T. district of the North West Company, which owns the Northern chain.
Adamson said relying on helicopters to restock Fort Simpson's store during freeze-up is costly and only so many items can be carried. Heavier items are rushed into the village before ferry service ends.
Perishable foods are given priority on the helicopter shuttle runs. For residents, that makes stocking up on...continued.

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