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Responding to Climate Change and Food Insecurity through Adaptive Land Based Food Strategies in a Remote Northern First Nation

Members of the IHRG in partnership with Kasabonika Lake First Nation successfully bid for funding from Health Canada’s Climate Change and Health Adaptation Program for First Nation Communities South of 60⁰N.

Background: For northern Indigenous populations who rely on the land for food, the effects of climate change are profound. In remote fly-in communities in Kasabonika Lake First Nation, where diets typically draw from a combination of store bought food and food harvested from the land, getting access to nutritious foods is increasingly difficult. The costs of shipping goods to the North are expensive and food prices are in some cases 300% higher than what is available in the nearest urban centres, (e.g. Thunder Bay). These costs are getting even higher because of climate change and the shorter winter road season, which means more goods need to be flown into the community at a higher price.

Sourcing food from the land is also becoming more difficult, in part because of the high costs of getting on the land, which not only means less wild food is available in the community, but fewer people are learning the requisite skills to get on the land to hunt or fish, prepare what is harvested, and determine what parts of the animal/plant tissue to be consumed. Compounded on this are the effects of climate change, which is making it more difficult to get on the land, and affecting wildlife populations.

This project builds on an existing partnership with the Indigenous Health Research Group (IHRG) at the University of Ottawa, the work will consist of the following short term and long term objectives:

  1. Construct a hoop style greenhouse and community garden adjacent to the elementary/high school
  2. Provide on-the-land training to youth, teaching land/waterway navigation skills, land based survival skills, hunting and fishing skills, and how to clean/prepare animal food sources
  3. Quantify and qualify local food production and distribution
  4. Perform a northern food systems analysis to determine sustainable measures to support local food initiatives
  5. Facilitate knowledge exchange between Kasabonika Lake First Nation, Nishnawbe Aski Nation communities, and regional and national organizations so that local food champions can teach, learn and share about key barriers to and facilitators of land-based food programs.

 

Important strides have been made in documenting community efforts to develop local food strategies as a means of addressing high levels of food insecurity in remote northern Indigenous communities (Robidoux et al., 2012; Pal et al., 2013b; Skinner et al., 2013). The primary objectives of this project are to continue to work with remote northern Indigenous communities in building local food capacity and to comprehensively examine local food procurement initiatives in their unique cultural and environmental settings.

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