$16 Breadsticks: The High Cost of Living in Nome, Alaska

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To Alaska, we fly. Photo by Jenny I. Miller.

National Geographic Young Explorers Jenny Miller, Sarah Robert and Charu Jaiswal are embarking on a one-month expedition to Alaska to document food scarcity and a revival of hunting and gathering among young people. Follow team’s updates from the field on Explorers Journal.

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We landed on the tarmac in Anchorage at 12:30 am (4:30 am Toronto time), and after 18 hours of travelling, just wanted a warm bed. However, Jenny told us that the food prices in Nome, the city we’d fly to at 9 am that day, would be exorbitant, and suggested that we stock up before we flew.  We went on a late night grocery run and noticed that the prices were already steeper than what we were used to; we bought fruit and veggies as Jenny said these would be the most expensive.

The cheapest items on the lunch/dinner menu are $13 hamburgers.  Appetizers like cheesy breadsticks go for $16.  A pizza that feeds three people can cost up to $32.

 When we arrived in Nome, Charu and I wanted to see if it was really as bad as Jenny had alleged. We entered Hanson’s, a local grocery store, and found that, yes, it was. While the processed foods were priced roughly the same as in Anchorage, others were much worse. A single bell pepper cost $2.99, milk was $6 a gallon, and a honeydew melon was $14. We heard tell of $29 watermelon in Kotzebue, a town not far north of Nome.

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Photo by Jenny I. Miller.

We’ve become semi-regulars at  one particular restaurant due to its proximity to our house and free WiFi. While the food is excellent, it is expensive. The cheapest items on the lunch/dinner menu are $13 hamburgers.  Appetizers like cheesy breadsticks go for $16.  A pizza that feeds three people can cost up to $32. Thankfully we budgeted $15 a head per meal.

Back in the grocery store, we struck up a conversation with a local restaurant owner when he overhead our surprised reactions to the prices. He said the costs had been going up, and to make ends meet he had to raise the prices on his menu. When asked what people did if they couldn’t afford food, he just shrugged and said, “We get by.”

-SR

You can follow our journey on Twitter and Instagram.

NEXTOn the Alaskan Tundra: Picking & Preserving Berries for Winter Months

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The Young Alaskan Hunters and Gatherers team is made up of three people. Charu, Sarah, and Jenny met through the Fulbright Foundation's Killam Fellowships program. Charu is a Biology student at York University in Toronto, Canada; Sarah is a Film and Media student at Queen's University in Kingston, Canada; and Jenny recently graduated with a BFA in Photomedia and BA in American Indian Studies from the University of Washington in Seattle. Jenny is originally from Nome, Alaska and is a tribal member of the Inupiat community.