Arctic Food Network


LOCATION: Nunavut, Canada

SUMMARY: Arctic Food Network is a series of strategically distributed shelters in Baffin Island, Nunavut (Canada). The network addresses food security, biological and wildlife species management, and provides a safe navigation system across the region. AFN is developed in partnership with the Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth in Nunavut.

PROBLEM SPACE: In the 2006 Census, Canada’s three northern territories—Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut—posted a combined population of over 100,000 people for the first time in Canadian history with the territory of Nunavut significantly exceeding Canada’s average population growth rate. Approximately 33,000 people (84% Inuit) live dispersed across 23 communities in Nunavut. Populations in the Canadian North are remarkably young; almost a third of the population is under the age of 15, and the average is 25 years of age. The challenges facing circumpolar peoples are urgent and requires fresh thinking with a strong understanding of traditions.

With this urgency to expand to accommodate population growth, there is little vision of how to grow beyond economic expediency and efficiency. Historically, the Inuit have had southern models foisted upon them – be it food, housing or education. Some of the greatest challenges facing northern communities are physical isolation, economic marginalization, youth disenfranchisement, and loss of traditional knowledge. The younger generations of Inuit find themselves caught between traditional and contemporary cultures.

The traditional Inuit diet, which is centered on hunting and fishing, has been slowly compromised by an influx of southern manufactured food products, leading to increased obesity and diabetes levels. The health impacts of this diet are amplified in the north, due to the high cost of shipping fresh produce and healthier, perishable goods to radically dispersed and remote northern communities. A typical food basket in Nunavut is twice the cost of the same food basket in southern Canada, while standards of living and salaries are often lower. The Arctic Food Network (AFN) addresses an urgent need for a snowmobile accessed regional network of arctic farms, freezers, and camp hubs. The AFN encircles the large body of the Foxe Basin in Nunavut, Canada, home to a richly diverse wildlife, along the coast of Baffin Island and some 30,000 Nunavummiut.

SOLUTION: The Arctic Food Network utilizes the existing skidoo trails, the only form of ground connection amongst the eleven disconnected Inuit communities of Baffin Island. The project proposes to address the threats of health, poverty, and loss of culture through the integration of communities with a unique infrastructure system. It is a 21st century arctic snow highway, with arctic rest-stop cabins. The AFN trail hubs re-enforce the use of the trails by strategically deploying a regional network of hunting cabins, arctic farms and camp hubs that encircle Foxe Basin and acknowledge the Inuit tradition of temporary enclosure in a cold climate.

The AFN is a new model for cold climate survival that would assist to sustain the rapidly increasing (youthful) populations in northern settlements, but also potentially offer a future exportable economy for the North. Each of the hubs along the AFN opportunistically negotiates its local ecosystems, emergent biological potentials, and its proximity to communities. AFN hubs are distributed at 160km intervals. Hubs occupy varied sites: land, water/ice, or coastal conditions. Each of these sitings offers a specific harvestable food product.

CONTACT: [email protected]