Nutrition through Engagement and Agricultural Technologies

Project Overview:

Nutrition through Engagement and Agricultural Technologies (N-EAT) is a Pacific Water Research Centre project that works with diverse First Nation communities in British Columbia (BC) and Alberta. The goal of this project is to improve the health, prosperity and economic wellbeing of these communities to achieve food sovereignty while ensuring sustainable access to water and energy. We work with Indigenous leaders to build capacity in their communities to be self-reliant in a way that increases their resilience to societal disruptions such as the COVID-19 pandemic and environmental stresses of climate change. The long-term goal of this project is to expand our partnerships with communities across Canada.

Worldwide, Indigenous people are the most vulnerable to food insecurity, malnutrition and chronic diseases (Kuhnlein et al., 2013). Over half (54.2%) of Indigenous households in Canada located on reserve land report food insecurity (Skinner, Hanning, Desjardins & Tsuji, 2013). The insecurity of Northern Indigenous communities has been linked to the high cost of access to and purchase of healthy foods, government social policies, loss of skills and knowledge to obtain local foods and lack of nutrition education (Islam & Berkes, 2016). N-EAT, in partnership with motivated Indigenous community leaders, is improving mindsets, skill sets, power dynamics and increasing the flow of resources towards achievement of food sovereignty for Indigneous groups. This means development of integrated, customized, and sustainable solutions for local food production, engaging the community members, particularly youth, to lead food enterprises and development of sustainable business models to ensure success beyond N-EAT’s involvement.

KLEMTU GREENHOUSE & COMMUNITY GARDEN:

In the spring of 2019, the N-EAT team collaborated with local leadership and community members of the Kitasoo/ Xai’xais First Nation in Klemtu, BC to revitalize their greenhouse that had fallen into disrepair and build a community garden. That summer, community members were harvesting fruits and vegetables from the garden; local school staff, students, and other community members attended workshops delivered by N-EAT’s Master Gardener, building intergenerational enthusiasm as families learned and gardened together; and a Klemtu Garden Coordinator was hired from within the community. The Garden Coordinator, with the support of local gardeners and volunteers, manages the greenhouse and a portion of the outdoor garden beds that make up the community garden. The other portion of the beds are managed by individual community members and their families. In April, 2020, the Kitasoo Band Office conducted a community survey that provided positive and constructive feedback on the Klemtu Community Garden that led to the planning and implementation of the garden expansion. This will double the number of outdoor community garden beds growing bulk staple crops and increase the length of the growing season with the building of hoop houses over garden beds. Local champions and N-EAT team members are working together to further expand the capacity of the local food system to operate all year.

“[Gardening has been] quite enjoyable, fun, new and [a] great learning experience.”

- Klemtu community member, 2020 community garden survey

The community garden enhances the community’s health and wellbeing by providing nutritious produce and ample space for meaningful collaboration and community engagement to take place, especially during the uncertain times of COVID-19.

While the Kitasoo/ Xai’xais First Nation and N-EAT continue to work together to create a sustainable, local food system in Klemtu, other communities are in consultation with N-EAT to secure similar support. N-EAT delivers custom programming adjustable to meet specific circumstances through community consultation, offering flexibility through skills training, resource sharing, and mentorship. This allows the program to develop and evolve with each community uniquely. In order to maximize the program’s impact, N-EAT engages with mid-phase development opportunities where the community has basic infrastructure at or near completion and is ready to build or enhance a sustainable, local food system. 

ENGAGEMENT, EDUCATION & EXPANSION:

N-EAT believes in offering youth-centered development opportunities as part of its programming. The team works with community members to develop school curriculum and activities related to food production and nutrition. These activities aim to get youth excited about and equipped with the skills to garden. Games and social events are used as a fun way to bring the community together in the garden. These activities are further supported by use of social media to provide information on nutrition and food preparation and production. During the summer of 2020, N-EAT successfully collaborated with Embark Sustainability to engage two SFU Master’s students to create four capacity building resources for nutrition and food security. They include: a seven-part workshop series with links to BC school curriculum for use by teachers, an Edible Plants of Klemtu Guide, a Klemtu Gardening Guide for beginner gardeners and a recipe book to give inspiration on what to cook with the food grown in the garden. Gardening is a new skill for many folks and supporting skills growth in this area is crucial to building excitement and longevity into the project. These were all designed with the ability to be augmented to be valuable resources not only for Klemtu but for additional Indigenous communities N-EAT partners with in the future. 

We are actively seeking new partnerships Canada-wide who can benefit from N-EAT’s support and are currently engaged in conversations with four other First Nations communities in BC and Alberta. 

To learn more, follow N-EAT on Instagram and Facebook!

Team:

Zafar Adeel

PWRC Executive Director

Allison Giannaros

Strategic Planner

Sigbrit Sochting

Program Evaluation Research Assistant

Sarah Pickering

Project Coordinator

Esther Robinson

Garden Coordinator (Klemtu, BC)  

Atlanta Grant

Community Research Assistant

Kerry Gibson

Partnerships Manager

Fiona Hamersley Chambers

Ethnobotanist

Project Partners: