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Leona Aglukkaq Says "Good Education" Will Help Starving Inuit Children

An APTN reporter asked the minister how the Conservatives will address the "crisis."

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In a territory where 60% of Inuit preschoolers have gone a day without eating, Leona Aglukkaq says education can help solve food insecurity.

APTN / Via aptn.ca

She made the comments in an interview with APTN's Kent Driscoll. Aglukkaq serves as the federal Environment Minister and is running for re-election in Nunavut.

Driscoll had just quoted some startling statistics to Aglukkaq, including that one in four Inuit preschoolers in Nunavut are severely food insecure and that 76% have had to skip meals.

He asked her what, outside of the government's Nutrition North program, the government can do to "help Nunavut's staving children."

She replied that it comes down to education.

APTN / Via aptn.ca

"This is broader than the Nutrition North issue. This is about education," she said.

"This is getting people in the North to good education so they can participate in the economy, getting a good job. So we’re also addressing that through our investment in adult basic education."

Driscoll pressed her further, asking for a short-term solution.

APTN / Via aptn.ca

"In Nunavut we put the Nutrition North subsidy program in place. We put more money into the program this past year and unfortunately the Liberals and the NDP voted against that enhancement to our program," she replied.

The Nutrition North program subsidizes food staples like fruit and milk which are often sold at exorbitant prices in the North. The program has been controversial, with a 2014 report from the Auditor General determining it wasn't clear if savings were actually being passed along to customers.

An NDP motion to expand and reform the program was defeated by the Conservatives earlier this year.

Driscoll pressed again: "Aside from the program, aside from the longterm jobs, is there any immediate support your government can do to help these hungry people?"

Members of Feeding My Family, a Facebook group about food security in the North, were unimpressed with the Minister's comments.

Leesee Papatsie/Facebook / Via facebook.com

"Children need access to nutritional and affordable food before they are able to study," wrote one member. "Their parents need nutritional and affordable food so they can work."

Lauren Strapagiel is Managing Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada.

Contact Lauren Strapagiel at lauren.strapagiel@buzzfeed.com.

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