For many Pangnirtung community members, more than ninety percent of their diet comes from “country food,” food that comes directly from the surrounding environment. They eat seal, char, turbot, beluga whale, walrus, bear, and caribou. In the summer they collect berries as well.
Country food helps Inuit maintain their relationship to the land, their cultural traditions and their health. Inuit people hunt in much the same way their culture has for thousands of years. Elders teach younger generations the knowledge of animal behavior and how to travel safely on the land.
Up until a few generations ago, the Inuit people were completely dependent upon the land. If they did not have success hunting, there would be starvation and suffering.
Now local grocery stores sell imported food. It is possible to buy a mango in the Pangnirtung Northern Store.
Store-bought food, however, is very expensive. A gallon of milk is more than fourteen dollars. Bananas cost almost three dollars a pound. For families with limited incomes, store-bought food can be very expensive.
Furthermore “fresh” foods are shipped in on cargo planes that are dependent on the weather to fly. A stretch of bad weather can mean low stock and less-than-fresh produce.
Also many pre-packaged and processed foods are not as healthful as country foods. Inuit communities have seen an increase in health problems as some community members replace portions of their diet with store-bought foods.
For these reasons country foods remain an important part of Inuit life. The changing Arctic climate impacts the success of hunting and fishing. In some cases it also impacts the quality of the meat.
Because they are so closely connected with the land, Inuit notice environmental changes.