This paper uses a mixed methods approach to characterise the experience of food insecurity among Inuit community members in Igloolik, Nunavut, and examine the conditions and processes that constrain access, availability, and quality of food. We conducted semi-structured interviews (n= 66) and focus groups (n= 10) with community members, and key informant interviews with local and territorial health professionals and policymakers (n= 19). The study indicates widespread experience of food insecurity. Even individuals and households who were food secure at the time of the research had experienced food insecurity in the recent past, with food insecurity largely transitory in nature. Multiple determinants of food insecurity operating over different spatial-temporal scales are identified, including food affordability and budgeting, food knowledge and preferences, food quality and availability, environmental stress, declining hunting activity, and the cost of harvesting. These determinants are operating in the context of changing livelihoods and climate change, which in many cases are exacerbating food insecurity, although high-order manifestations of food insecurity (that is, starvation) are no longer experienced.
The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is a common pool resource that contributes to both the subsistence and monetary aspects of the Nunavut mixed economy through its use as food, the sale of hides in the fur trade, and sport hunt outfitting. Sport hunting is more financially profitable than subsistence hunting; however, the proportion of the polar bear quota devoted to the sport hunt has become relatively stable at approximately 20% across Nunavut. This ratio suggests local Inuit organizations are not using a neoclassical economic model based on profit maximization. This paper examines local-level hunting organizations and their institutions (as sets of rules) governing the sport and Inuit subsistence hunts from both formalist and substantivist economic perspectives. It concludes that profit maximization is used within the sport hunting sphere, which fits a neoclassical model of economic rationality. A second and parallel system, better viewed through the substantivist perspective, demonstrates that the communities focus on longer-term goals to maintain and reproduce the socio-economic system of the subsistence economy, which is predicated on maintaining social, human-environment, and human-polar bear relations.