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- Recap: Cultural Sensitivity and Community-Engaged Research
- Understanding the sexual and reproductive health access of young im/migrant women: A community engagement project
- Gardening Initiative Helps to Address Food Insecurity
- Innovative Research That's Advancing Equity
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Gardening Initiative Helps to Address Food Insecurity
Food insecurity is a multifaceted issue affecting Canadian households and communities across the Nation. One community has been taking steps to change that.
The Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation in Klemtu, BC, a remote coastal community, are working to cultivate ongoing food security in their community through greenhouse community gardening and garden boxes. This initiative came to fruition through a partnership with SFU researchers from the Nutrition through Engagement and Agricultural Technologies (N-EAT) Project. The project started in 2018 with support from two private funding donors who had strong connections with and appreciation for the community in Klemtu.
“Our Nation has lacked the ability to eat healthily,” says Isaiah Robinson, Kitasoo Band Councillor. “By the time everybody gets [to the store] on Sunday afternoon, everything's gone. What's left are chips, pop and canned beans.”
“I think the [N-EAT] project is a phenomenal opportunity specifically for a remote community like Klemtu being as out in the open and out of the way as it is, it's perfect.”
The food available at the Kitasoo Band Store is delivered to Klemtu via boat. By the time it arrives on the shelves freshness has dramatically decreased and many items are within days of expiring. As a result, the community largely relies on the consumption of packaged and processed food with longer shelf lives as their primary food sources. Alternatively, prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, some community members travel by boat to larger nearby communities with better stocked grocery stores. This is typically a two- to three-day journey.
The COVID-19 pandemic has provided the Council with an opportunity to address many longstanding issues within the community according to Robinson.
“As awful as COVID is for us all, leadership sees it as an opportunity to continue helping the Nation grow in a more progressive and supportive manner,” says Robinson. “If we keep on the trajectory of being progressive and open-minded, and biting the bullet and pushing forward, I’m excited to see how the Nation grows over the next 10 years.”
If we keep on the trajectory of being progressive and open-minded, and biting the bullet and pushing forward, I’m excited to see how the Nation grows over the next 10 years.
Helping the community achieve food sovereignty is a quintessential part of the N-EAT project. The health, prosperity and economic wellbeing of the community is intertwined with capacity building efforts including improving mindsets, skill sets, power dynamics and increasing the flow of resources. This will help ensure the success of the community gardening initiative beyond N-EAT’s involvement.
“The Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation have been successful in turning a primarily resource extraction into an eco-tourism focused economy to sustain their territory, its land, waters and its people,” explains Sarah Pickering, N-EAT project coordinator. “Their focus on sustainability and the health and well-being of their people made theirs a perfect community to start a sustainable, local food system project.”
When the N-EAT project began in 2018 they outlined the following objectives:
- Increase the quantity and quality of fresh, nutritious food readily available in Klemtu.
- Build the capacity of the community to be self-reliant as it relates to food security.
- Engage community members of all age groups and with diverse interests.
In the three years since establishing these objectives, N-EAT and the Klemtu community members have established an operational greenhouse and community garden with 15 different crops providing seasonal, local and organic food for the community. N-EAT’s Master Gardener has conducted several gardening workshops and skills training events attended widely by the community.
“Food sovereignty is important for the more obvious reason that people need reliable access to nutritious foods but also for the deeper reason of the feeling of pride and ownership that comes with being able to supply your community with healthy foods grown on your own land,” says Pickering.
Food sovereignty is important for the more obvious reason that people need reliable access to nutritious foods but also for the deeper reason of the feeling of pride and ownership that comes with being able to supply your community with healthy foods grown on your own land.
Now, over 20 community members are growing food in the garden to feed their households while also learning and applying new hands-on skills for growing local and sustainable food. The Kitasoo Community School has gotten involved and in spring of this year students and staff will help build additional community garden beds. There are also plans in place to conduct classes in the garden. Additionally, food grown in the garden is used by the local Meals for Elders programs to make healthy dishes for seniors.
An endeavour like the N-EAT project is hinged upon strong collaboration with local community members. Pickering recognizes the importance of having a good local champion which she says is key to this project’s longevity and success. Meaningful and ongoing communication are needed in order to build effective relationships with community members and ensure their needs are at the forefront of efforts.
“I enjoy meeting new people and building new relationships, and through N-EAT I have met so many great people,” says Robinson. “It comes down to having people that are passionate about or interested in the same things as you and working towards the same goals.”