Affordable Food in Remote Manitoba (AFFIRM)
What is AFFIRM?
- AFFIRM stands for Affordable Food in Remote Manitoba
- This program reduces the price of milk, fresh vegetables and fresh fruits in eligible remote Northern communities through a subsidy. The subsidy is provided to participating stores and each store is required to pass on the full subsidy to the customer by reducing the sale price of milk, fresh vegetables and fresh fruit.
- Regular monitoring by the Province ensures that the full value of the subsidy is passed on to the customer.
- Any store that sells milk, fresh vegetables or fresh fruits in eligible communities can apply to participate.
Why is AFFIRM needed?
- Healthy foods are often very expensive in Northern Manitoba due to factors such as lack of all-weather road access, transportation costs, limited retail competition, and perishability.
- To address this issue the province engaged leaders in several communities that experience some of the highest food prices in the province.
- The province recognizes that while a food subsidy program will help to alleviate some high food prices it is only one component of a bigger strategy to address food security in the North.
- For more information on other Government Initiatives to increase food security in the North visit www.gov.mb.ca/ana/nhfi.html.
How were participating communities selected?
- Participating communities are Northern Manitoba communities that are not directly serviced by an all-weather road and which do not receive the full subsidy through the federal Nutrition North Canada program. Eligibility is determined by the Province of Manitoba.
Eligible communities where the AFFIRM Program has been established:
Three eligible communities (Pikwitonei, Thicket Portage and Ilford/ War Lake) do not currently have retailers that sell milk, fresh vegetables and fresh fruits. Alternative methods of increasing access to healthy foods in these communities are being explored through the program.
The AFFIRM Subsidy applies to the eligible foods listed in the table below. Eligible retailers are not required to stock every eligible food listed below.
|Eligible Food Category
Eligible Food Description
Fluid Milk and Fortified Soy Beverage
Fresh milk (whole, 2%, 1%, skim, buttermilk)
Includes all types of fresh cow’s milk and other animal milk (e.g., goat milk).
Fresh flavoured milk
Includes eggnog and all varieties of fresh flavoured milk (e.g., chocolate, strawberry)
Fortified soy beverage
Does not include rice or almond beverages
Does not include pumpkins
All fresh fruit
Frequently Asked Questions
How did you decide the subsidy rate for each community?
- Milk prices serve as a general indicator of overall food prices in a community. Milk has a relatively stable selling price that is not prone to major seasonal changes, allowing for comparison of prices between communities. If milk prices are high, typically all other items, including fresh vegetables and fresh fruits, are also high-priced.
- The higher the average price of milk in a community the higher the subsidy rate we applied for that community.
Can you explain how the retail subsidy works?
- The AFFIRM subsidy is a weight based subsidy, meaning that the total discount is determined by the weight of the food items purchased.
- The amount of subsidy claimed by the retailer is based on the kilograms of eligible foods that have been shipped to the retailer. For example, if a community has a subsidy rate of $1.20/kg and the retailer submits a claim for a shipment that contained 200kg of vegetables, 100kg of fruits, and 50kg of milk they can claim for 350kg.
- The subsidy rate for each community determines the dollar amount per kilogram that the retailer will receive. So if the community rate is $1.20 per kg, for 350 kg the retailer will receive $420 (350 kg X $1.20).
- The full subsidy must then be passed on to the customers. For example, if a customer in a community where the subsidy rate is $1.20/ kg buys a 2kg bag of apples they should pay a price that was reduced by $2.40 ($1.20 x 2kg).
How will AFFIRM ensure that the subsidy is being passed on to customers?
- The province has developed a robust reporting and monitoring process:
- Retailers signed formal agreements that set out their responsibilities.
- Participating retailers are required to submit reports as part of the claims process and to make the dollar savings on eligible food items visible to customers through in-store signage and ‘shelf-talkers’(placed on the grocery store shelf near the product). As well, they must submit to audits of their accounts and records at the request of the province.
- The province has engaged volunteer Price Checkers to perform regular price checks, of a standard list of eligible foods items, in participating retailers in each community.
How are communities being made aware of AFFIRM?
- Posters and brochures (in English, Cree and Dene) are in place in participating communities to communicate the existence and purpose of AFFIRM.
- “Shelf-talkers” (placed on the grocery store shelf near the product) indicate the before and after AFFIRM price for eligible foods. A minimum number of shelf-talkers must be displayed at all times and they must be rotated amongst eligible items.
- Where possible, retailers promote AFFIRM on purchase receipts.
- A toll-free line (1-855-494-7352) is in place to answer questions. The toll-free line is promoted on AFFIRM posters, brochures and website.
Now that AFFIRM is in place why are some fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries, still expensive?
- There are many reasons why some types of fruits and vegetables are still relatively expensive:
- Many fruits and vegetables experience seasonal changes in pricing. If you are buying a fruit or vegetable that is not in season you will likely pay more for it than you would if you bought it during its peak season (for example, strawberries are often less expensive in the summer).
- The subsidy is based on weight, so some items, such as herbs and greens (which are relatively light weight) will not receive as big of a discount as heavier items such as potatoes or squash.
Has AFFIRM partnered with Northern Store (North West Company) for this program?
- AFFIRM is available to all retailers in participating communities. Northern Store is taking part in the program as it has retail outlets in seven of the ten participating communities. In five of the ten communities it is the only retail outlet. Independent retailers in eligible communities are also participating.
What about other communities in Manitoba that have high milk prices?
- Food prices are often higher outside of major population centres. AFFIRM is specifically directed to non-road access communities which experience some of the highest prices in the province.
Will retailers profit from AFFIRM?
- The full value of the subsidy must be deducted from the shelf price of eligible foods (for example if the subsidy is $1.20/ kg, the price of a 2 kg bag of apples must be reduced by $2.40 [$1.20 kg x 2 kg]).
- A plan for reporting and monitoring is in place to make sure the full value of the subsidy is passed on to customers.
- It is anticipated that the volume of healthy perishable food sales will increase as a result of AFFIRM and this may result in a business benefit to retailers.
The AFFIRM subsidy is limited to milk fortified soy beverages and fresh fruit and vegetables. What about other healthy foods like bread, eggs or meat?
- While the province recognizes that all foods in remote communites are expensive, this is particularly the case for highly perishable fresh foods like milk, fruits and vegetables.
- Milk, vegetables and fruit are important parts of a healthy diet as they are excellent sources of the nutrients that protect our health and fuel our bodies.
The eligible food list will be reviewed as part of the on-going evaluation.
What happens if an AFFIRM community gets a year-round road?
- To be eligible, communities must not have access to an all-weather road. If an all-weather road is established then that community will no longer be eligible for the program. However, it would be expected that access to an all weather road would reduce the cost of bringing food into the community, thereby lowering the price of healthy perishable food.
How do you stop the retailers from increasing their prices, before applying the subsidy?
- Prices were recorded prior to the implementation of the subsidy, and Price Checkers will report on prices of eligible foods on a regular basis.
- Retailers set prices in accordance with a business model, and prices will always fluctuate based on a multiple factors (e.g., seasonal variation in produce prices, changes in overhead cost, method of shipping used). Prices will be monitored so that we can make sure there are not unexplained increases in base prices.