Access to affordable food for Aboriginal people


It can be hard for many Aboriginal people to meet basic food needs. In some small communities, food costs can be four times more expensive than in the city.

To cope with these challenges, you may find that you skip meals or eat foods that fill you up but that are not nutritious. This may mean that your family is not eating a healthy balance of foods each day.

These issues must be addressed so Aboriginal people can eat well for good health. Small changes may also help you to get the most nutrition for your dollar. Planning your meals, eating a more traditional diet or organizing a community garden can make a difference to your family’s health.

What are Aboriginal communities doing?

There are many community food-based programs that can help. Find out if these programs exist in your community. If not, you can work with your local health care provider to start a program.

Community kitchens. Meet regularly with a group to learn how to cook and prepare nutritious meals that can be divided up and taken home.

Food skills workshops. Learn shopping, preserving and cooking skills. 

Nutrition workshops and resources. Learn about healthier food choices and how to prepare healthier meals for your family.

Weight Loss Programs. Learn about healthy food choices to promote good health and weight loss.

Good food box program. This runs like a food-buying club. Local volunteers take orders for a box brimming with fresh produce that you pick up. 

Community/Family gardens. Community members come together to create a garden or individual families can create family gardens.

Six ways to cut costs and boost nutrition

To eat better for less, try to:

  1. Eat a more traditional diet. How about a breakfast of oatmeal and local fresh or frozen berries instead of sweetened cereals? Choose water more often to satisfy your thirst instead of pop, fruit punch or other sweetened drinks. Fill up on a hot bowl fish of head soup for lunch or moose stew for dinner instead of “fast foods” that offer little nutrition.
  2. Plan your meals ahead. Look for store specials on nutritious foods that you can work into your meal plan. Make a grocery list based on your meal plan and stick to it to avoid buying extras you don’t need.
  3. Buy natural, unprocessed products. Pre-seasoned rice or pre-made frozen meals are less nutritious and can cost 50% more than buying the basics and doing it yourself.
  4. Don’t shop when you are hungry. That can cost you 15% more on your grocery bill!
  5. Choose store brands. Store brands tend to be less expensive than other “name” brands. Compare the prices of larger packages and bulk store prices too.
  6. Substitute less expensive protein sources. Replace some or all of the meat in recipes with wild game*, beans, peas, lentils, eggs, canned fish *or locally caught fish*. 

* Review the safety notes here for important information about game meat and fish

Click here for more tips on shopping on a budget.

Good buys

Food such as chips and other packaged snack foods or fruit punch may seem less costly but they offer little nutritional value for your money. For the best buys choose the nutritious foods below that are less expensive:

Choose most often


Vegetables and Fruit

Fresh when in season

Frozen and canned when not in season

Frozen concentrated 100% unsweetened juice

Juice in cartons or bottles, fruit punches, fruit drinks, fruit cocktails

Pre-packaged apples, oranges, onions, carrots and potatoes

Individually packaged vegetables and fruit

Visit a pick-your-own farm

Grain Products

Unsweetened whole grain cereals such as plain oatmeal

Pre-sweetened oatmeal

Plain whole grain breads, bannock and scones

Sweetened baked goods and fancy breads such as cheese or raisin breads

Pre-packaged whole grain bagels and rolls

Individually packaged bagels and rolls

Plain whole wheat noodles, barley, pasta, brown rice, wild rice.

Noodles, barley, pasta and rice with seasonings and sauces

Milk and Alternatives

Powdered Milk

Low fat canned milk (evaporated)


Skim or 1% milk bags (freeze extras for up to six weeks)

Milk cartons

Plain yogurt in large containers (sweeten with canned fruit)

Individual yogurts

Hard cheese on sale in larger blocks (can be frozen)

Soft fish bones

Fortified soy beverage

Meat and Alternatives

Moose, caribou, deer, geese, duck, fish or rabbits

Liver or kidneys of moose and deer (because of contaminants)

Beans, peas, lentils, canned or dried

Peanut butter, nut butters


Plain frozen fish fillets

Battered or seasoned fish fillets

Canned fish packed in water

Whole chicken or turkey. (Buy “grade C” poultry and cut it up yourself. It is just as nutritious and safe to eat as other grades but less costly.)

Pieces of chicken or turkey

Lean and less expensive meat cuts: stewing beef, chuck, blade, cross rib, outside or inside round, or pork shoulder. Tenderize these meats by marinating in tomato juice, making a stew or cooking in a slow cooker.

Who can I go to for help?

For help with choosing healthy foods, setting up cooking classes or community kitchens contact your local:

For more information:

Brighter Futures Program for First Nations and Inuit communities, funds programs that support child development including nutritional food and education.

Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program offers programs for pregnant women. Services include food vouchers and vitamins, nutrition counseling and food preparation training.

FoodShare works with many different communities, to improve access to affordable and healthy food.

EatRight Ontario can help you find services in your community.  Call 1-877-510-5102 or send an email

Last Update – October 9, 2016

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If you have questions about what you've read here, or other questions about food, nutrition or healthy eating, click to email our Registered Dietitians or call 1-877-510-5102.