Upper Canada College Year 12 student Raphael Berz became interested in high food prices in Northern Canada in economics teacher David Borden’s class during the last school year, and he’s acting on it.
“Researching the causes and consequences of food insecurity has allowed me to better understand the complexity of public policy decisions and their impact on our societies,” says Berz, who took part in a March break exchange with six students from Kugluktuk High School in Nunavut.
Berz interviewed Kugluktuk grocery store managers and spoke to residents about food access and prices and wrote his Year 11 extended essay on food security in Northern Canada when he returned to Toronto. He also made this video of the trip to Kugluktuk.
Berz then had his conclusions from the extended essay published on the editorial page of Victoria, B.C.’s Times Colonist newspaper in July.
“I spend summers on Vancouver Island and think people here are more interested and aware of indigenous and northern issues than people in Toronto,” says Berz, who also submitted his column to The Globe and Mail and Toronto Star for consideration.
Berz was excited to learn that Borden plans to incorporate his Times Columnist piece into his economics class’ lessons on monopolies in the upcoming school year.
Kugluktuk made a large enough impact on Berz that he returned there, and was accompanied by fellow UCC student Matthew Thompson, this summer to volunteer at its youth centre’s summer day camp.
“There is no magic solution to lower food prices for isolated communities,” says Berz. “There are, however, many possibilities that economists and government officials should look into, each bearing their own set of advantages and disadvantages — as is always the case in economics.
“I think that the government should consider directly regulating the prices of nutritious food products or even public ownership of the northern retail industry. We should also find ways to make substitutes, including Internet orders, cheaper and more accessible.
“Perhaps companies like Amazon or Walmart could consider servicing remote areas as part of their corporate social responsibility. The current Nutrition North Canada program provides a subsidy directly to retailers, but a subsidy to consumers or transportation companies may be more effective.”
UCC will take part in another Kugluktuk exchange in March 2020 and Berz encourages students to apply to take part.
“We have tremendous poverty and suffering in Northern Canada and we need to find ways to ease this inequality,” he says. “It’s a phenomenal cultural experience where we were able to witness these issues first hand.”