Using social media to raise awareness about food insecurity in Nunavut By: paige petrovsky

Nunavut is the most sizable, northern, newest and lowest populated territory in Canada. According to the Nunavut Bureau of Statistics, as of July 2016, the territory has a population of just over 37-thousand and an unemployment rate just below 15 per cent overall.

A high unemployment rate can lead to complications for some residents when it comes to buying groceries. The Nunavut Bureau of Statistics explains that a resident of a Nunavut community can be paying, at least, up to twice as much for food compared to the rest of Canada.

Photo: Jeannie Illuitok ('Feeding My Family' Facebook group member)
Photo: Jeannie Illuitok ('Feeding My Family' Facebook group member)
Photo: Jeannie Illuitok ('Feeding My Family' Facebook group member)

The following chart highlights some of Nunavut’s highest ranked grocery store products as of March 2016, according to the Nunavut Bureau of Statistics in comparison to the rest of Canada.

As mentioned in the CBC Day 6 article, ‘Nunavut’s food crisis is becoming an election issue’, it costs more money to have food shipped out to northern communities which leads to the spark of higher priced grocery store products.

Photo: Jeannie Illuitok ('Feeding My Family' Facebook group member)
Photo: Jeannie Illuitok ('Feeding My Family' Facebook group member)

Israel R Mablick Sr. lives in Iqaluit and has seen many changes regarding food insecurity in Nunavut over the years. The insecurity has impacted himself as well as the rest of his family.

“I have been unemployed for over a year now, just taking in contract work so it [food insecurity] has affected us deeply,” Mablick says.

In response to the cost of shipping food to Nunavut, Mablick says: “There are only two ways of transportation, sea and air. Just revamp the program, or decrease the prices and fees of the airlines.”

Awareness about food insecurity in Nunavut is always needed, especially when other parts of Canada, and the world, are so unaware and misinformed about what’s happening.

“A lot of people in southern Canada think Thunder Bay is the Arctic,” Mablick says.

Dana McDade, who was originally from Ontario and now lives in New Brunswick, was involved in helping a family from Clyde River, NU. This resulted in her having a lot to say when it comes to food insecurity in Nunavut and what can be done to raise awareness.

“Journalists need to get [the] word out through stories, photos and pushing hard questions to get answers from our politicians," McDade says. “Social media is the engine for openness, truth and most importantly the awakening of the masses.”

According to McDade the lack of media coverage on this issue in Nunavut is a result of lack of political will in regards to the media and politicians.

What can be done?

A DreamGROW study ‘Top 15 Most Popular Social Networking Sites (and 10 Apps!)’ revealed that Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter are the top four most used social media platforms for networking. Each can be used in many ways to spread awareness about food insecurity in Nunavut.

The four most popular social media platforms.

Facebook is just one of the many platforms that can be used to find information and raise awareness about this issue. For example, ‘Feeding My Family’ is a group that allows members to communicate amongst each other and spread awareness. The group provides information to its members regarding how they can help residents of Nunavut, by donating to food banks as well as raising awareness within the group. It also gives residents of Nunavut the opportunity to post pictures of food prices to show people just how bad they really are.

Official Facebook page for 'Feeding My Family'.

Social media continues to grow and evolve. With a new idea coming out almost everyday, it can be hard to keep up. However, a few key aspects of each platform have remained the same when it comes to using social media to spread awareness. Helpful techniques include integrating key terms, pictures, using hashtags and keeping content short and to the point.

By using relevant hashtags, as well as key terms journalists, and other social media users, can create a virtual community with people who use the same or similar hashtags. As a result this creates more awareness, and more talk, about food insecurity in Nunavut.

Instagram search results after using the hashtag 'Nunavut food prices'.
Facebook search results after using the key terms 'Nunavut food prices'.
Twitter search results after using the key terms 'Nunavut food'.

Posting pictures, along with information, adds a visual element to stories which increases the likelihood of more awareness being brought to the issue being talked about.

“People using social media [in Nunavut], we post pictures on Twitter all the time of food prices up here,” Nick Murray, a reporter for CBC Nunavut says. “People in the south just go ballistic retweeting, and favouriting it.”

Elyse Skura, reporter and newsreader for CBC Nunavut, using Twitter and hashtags to raise awareness of the high food prices in Nunavut.
Skura continuing to use Twitter to raise awareness, while also engaging other people in the conversation.

New content is constantly being posted. In order to catch attention online, it’s more beneficial to ensure that the content is short and to the point. This will cause more people to be willing to click on the content to read it, or see what it's about, which will result in more traffic on the post ultimately creating more awareness.

Skura keeps her posts short and to the point so more people are willing to read the information.

When journalists, and other social media users, utilize these techniques online to talk about food insecurity in Nunavut they are not only reaching people who were previously involved in these issues, but also anyone new who sees and interacts with their initial posts.

In terms of which social media platform is most valuable when it comes to raising awareness, Murray says it just depends.

“I think Facebook will reach more masses than Twitter, I think it just depends which platform is more open and which platform you have more of a following on,” Murray says.

Solving the food insecurity issue is not going to be a quick fix. Even though this is the case, journalists, Nunavut residents, and anyone else who is trying to raise awareness, can continue to use social media to make the rest of the country and the world more involved in the process of finding a solution.

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