Addressing Food Security in Klemtu
As the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted, food supply chains can be extremely fragile. The pandemic, especially, has shown how important having a local food source is to the food security of remote communities. According to the First Nations Food, Nutrition and Environment Study, 48% of First Nations households are food insecure. Access to fresh, nutritious, and culturally appropriate foods can be a challenge for many First Nations communities both due to economic reasons and remote locations.
The Nutrition through Engagement and Agricultural Technologies (N-EAT) project works to support creating sustainable food systems in partnership and full collaboration with First Nations communities.
A Pacific Water Research Centre project, coordinated through the Faculty of Applied Sciences, N-EAT comes up with and implements solutions for food security by offering organizational and logistical support, assisting with mobilizing financial resources, and building local capacity. Engaging children and youth in these endeavours is an important element.
Currently, the project has an existing partnership with the Kitasoo/ Xai’xais First Nation in Klemtu, BC and is in conversation with two other First Nations communities and potential partners in British Columbia. The N-EAT project is constantly working with new innovative technology to improve food sovereignty in remote communities. For example, in Klemtu, the project is facilitating the procurement of a Growcer unit, which is a shipping container that is climate controlled and can grow food all year round in a hydroponic system.
The project’s main objective is to build food security by working and collaborating with remote communities but, in practice, it does more than that. The project works closely with the local school in Klemtu, engages with volunteers, the local grocery store and tourism lodge, and organizes community engagement events that help to build capacity around growing food and nutrition education. The success of this project relies heavily on the hard work of the Klemtu Community Garden Coordinator, other Kitasoo Band staff members, and so many awesome community members whose support has made such a positive impact on this work.
The project works with the community to incorporate traditional food harvesting practices as well as creates an opportunity and space where intergenerational knowledge transfers can happen. Co-founder and former project coordinator Sarah Pickering notes that working in the community garden “gives people a sense of pride that they are taking care of their community in a way that is healthy” and “people feel ownership over the food that they’re able to provide for their communities”.
In 2020, the project secured Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) funding and the N-EAT team was able to engage a SFU Master’s student to do a project evaluation and identify ways to improve on their work in Klemtu and make more informed decisions when working with other First Nations communities. The funding is also helping support staff at the Klemtu Community Garden and allows the project to continue working with an experienced Ethnobotanist with years of experience in the Kitasoo and Xai’xais territories.
In May 2022, the N-EAT project was also awarded a $165,000 grant by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) as part of its 2022 North American Partnership for Environmental Community Action (NAPECA) grant program. The funding will enable N-EAT to enhance its ongoing activities aimed at building food security and resilience for remote Indigenous communities in BC.