The NiKigijavut Nunatsiavutinni Project is currently in its second phase of implementation.
During Phase I of the Project, a community-driven assessment was carried out in Hopedale, Nunatsiavut that took an in-depth look at all of the issues that affect access to food in the community. Residents came together to identify areas that need improvement, and to develop initiatives that are relevant and appropriate for the community. The assessment process that was carried out in Hopedale is called a Community-led Food Assessment (CLFA). In addition to the CLFA, a Hopedale Community Food Action Plan, outlining priority Food Security Initiatives and associated Evaluation Plans, were developed. The Project Team’s experience, as well as input from Hopedale’s Food Security Committee and residents, informed the development of a culturally-appropriate CLFA Model for use in Inuit communities, including Learning and Activity Guides. Development of this Model increased opportunities for inter-regional partnership and implementation of CLFAs in other Inuit regions across Canada.
Phase II of the Project builds on the successes of Phase I by using the CLFA Model as a tool for increasing access to healthy food, improving health, and achieving healthier weights in other Inuit communities in Nunatsiavut and across Canada. Key activities include:
1. Completion of two further CLFAs in Nain and Rigolet, Nunatsiavut;
2. Implementation, evaluation, and planning for sustainability of the food security interventions outlined in Hopedale, Rigolet, and Nain Food Action Plans, as well as guidance to food security interventions in Postville and Makkovik;
3. Development of a Nunatsiavut-specific definition and adapted tool for assessing food security status in Nunatsiavut;
4. Development of recommendations for a Nunatsiavut food security strategy through collaboration with key policy makers and stakeholders within Nunatsiavut Government;
5. Share knowledge and promote the CLFA model across Canada, as well as support the implementation and evaluation of a CLFA and Food Action Plan in Baker Lake, Nunavut.
SUmmary of NiKigijavut Nunatsiavutinni Food Security Interventions:
NiKigijavut Hopedalimi Programs (Hopedale, Nunatsiavut):
Community Freezer Expansion Program
During the Hopedale Community-led Food Assessment (CLFA), community members expressed the important role of harvesting and consuming wild food in a healthy Inuit lifestyle and diet as well as in passing on traditional skills to youth, and maintaining important community sharing networks. Challenges to accessing wild food were identified as: the high cost of getting off on the land to hunt and harvest, changing weather and ice patterns, and lack of traditional harvesting knowledge.
From these concerns followed an identified interest in expanding the existing Community Freezer Program so that more traditional wild foods could be available to the community. Increased storage space, increased selection of traditional wild foods available, and expanded eligibility and formalized guidelines were identified as key areas of improvement to the program. Community sharing, education and awareness initiatives are also part of the Community Freezer Expansion Program, which was implemented in 2010. These initiatives include community wide access to a dehydrator, cooking and canning equipment (stockpots, pressure cooker, mason jars, etc.), electric meat grinder, and a vacuum sealer. The eligibility of the Freezer Program has been expanded so that all community members can access wild food and sign out equipment, based on formalized guidelines. In addition, a pantry of staple foods to complement the freezer has been introduced for low-income and elder community members.
Community Gardening Program
During the Hopedale CLFA, community members consistently spoke about the high cost, limited selection, and limited supply of nutritious foods available. The high cost of fresh produce was regularly identified as a serious challenge for people living with low income. Community members identified community gardening as a strategy to improve access to fresh, high quality, low cost vegetables in Hopedale, as well as offer gardening and healthy eating education to community members.
The Hopedale Community Gardening Program was implemented in Spring 2013. The Program intends to build a network of gardeners in Hopedale by teaching beginning gardening skills through workshops, supporting small home container gardens, and larger outdoor raised bed community gardens, and providing resources, including gardening equipment, soil, seeds, seedlings, and toolkits. The Community Gardens are maintained by a group of participating gardeners who share responsibilities and contribute efforts to beds from which everyone shares the harvest. The NiKigijavut Hopedalimi Coordinator also maintains a container garden at the council building for public access, and supports raised beds around the council building that are maintained by youth groups in the community.
Community Kitchens Program
During the Hopedale CLFA, community members spoke about the need for improved traditional and contemporary food education in many areas ranging from budgeting skills to traditional knowledge to healthy eating awareness in the community.
The NiKigijavut Hopedalimi Coordinator is working in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Development Community Kitchens Program to deliver cooking classes in Hopedale. The purpose of the Community Kitchens Program is to engage low-income community members and teach a blend of traditional Inuit and contemporary healthy food knowledge and healthy cooking skills using wild and store-bought foods in a group setting. The class runs twice a week in Hopedale from September through June.
Youth Outreach Program
Through the Hopedale CLFA, community members discussed the importance of connecting youth and elders to ensure traditional harvesting, preparation and preservation of wild food is passed on from generation to generation. Community members voiced that teaching youth about traditional ways of life is key to preserving Inuit culture and tradition.
In 2013, the NiKigijavut Hopedalimi Committee formed a subcommittee to establish a Hopedale Youth Outreach Program modelled after the Going Off, Growing Strong program in Nain. The Youth Outreach Program has been adopted by the Nunatsiavut Government’s Department of Health and Social Development in Hopedale, and falls under the responsibility of the DHSD Recreation Coordinator. The Program’s purpose is to engage youth in traditional Inuit activities and create intergenerational connections between experienced hunters and youth in the community. The Program connects youth and elders in going off on the land to harvest wild food and learn traditional skills. The food harvested is distributed through the community or provided to elders and low-income community members.
NiKigijavut Rigoletimi Programs (Rigolet, Nunatsiavut):
Good Food Box Program
The Good Food Box program stemmed from residents’ concerns with store bought food in Rigolet voiced through the CLFA in 2013-14, including: poor quality of food, high prices, limited selection and limited availability of healthy fresh meat and produce. Residents expressed that limited access to fresh meat was compounded by the recent caribou ban that had been in effect in Labrador since 2012, and there was less wild meat in circulation in the community and a need for better access to healthy meat. In addition, the Rigolet community freezer is not open to all community members, and residents have voiced they have difficulty accessing affordable unprocessed meats at the store.
The Good Food Box Program was implemented in November 2014 and runs once a month, offering residents varying sizes of boxes, ranging from small, medium, or large alternating meat and vegetable/fruit good food box orders. Orders are placed through a wholesaler in Goose Bay, who ship the order to Rigolet through Air Labrador. Once it reaches the community, the food items are sorted, packaged and distributed to participants by the Our Food in Rigolet Committee. The price of a Good Food Box reflects the cost of its contents and shipping expenses (the Nutrition North Subsidy is applied). The Good Food Box Program is a community-driven, self-sustaining program; it is not organized as a charity, nor is it intended to be profit-driven, and therefore, the prices are intended to cover only the base costs of running the program.
Backyard Gardening Program
Through the Rigolet CLFA, community members’ discussed the potential, but limited experience and knowledge in Rigolet to grow food – 36% of CLFA participants said they had experience in gardening and 64% reported an interest in participating and learning more about gardening through a formal program.
As a result, a mentor-based Backyard Gardening Program was established during Spring 2015. The Program combines experienced and beginner gardeners in mentorship pairs to build, plant, and maintain home-based backyard raised beds. The Program provides participants with gardening materials, resources and training to help the growing network of gardeners in Rigolet build capacity to garden and provide nutritious and healthy food in a self-sufficient and sustainable manner to Rigolet residents. As a way to support other residents interested in being involved in gardening, a community-wide gardening supplies toolbox is available, including a wheelbarrow, shovels, and gardening safety equipment that can be signed out to any interested community member.
NiKigijavut Nainimi Programs (Nain, Nunatsiavut):
NiKiKautik (A Place Where Food Is) Program
One of the major food issues identified through the Nain CLFA was the need for improved healthy eating and cooking knowledge and awareness. Participants at Action Planning noted that many of the participants of the Community Freezer Program in Nain are not knowledgeable in preparing and cooking meats from the freezer. One strategy for improving food security in Nain that was proposed at Action Planning was a program that removed perceived barriers to learning about traditional and contemporary food preparation.
The purpose of the NiKiKautik (“a place where food is”) Cooking Program is to teach a blend of traditional Inuit and contemporary healthy cooking skills using wild and store-bought foods in a group setting. Staple food items and wild meats from the Community Freezer Program are used in the class to ensure that participants do not face any financial or hunting barriers to involvement and that they learn cooking skills that they are able to employ at home. The group meets with a cooking instructor once a week at a central location to talk about food and make a variety of traditional and contemporary food that they can bring home for their families and friends at the end of the day. The NiKiKautik Program also partners with the Department of Health and Social Development, and through that partnership, NiKiKautik participants help deliver outdoor cooking demonstrations and prepare dinners for monthly elder feasts in the community.
Some notable challenges that have arose over the life of the NiKigijavut Nunatsiavutinni Project are as follows:
(1) Partnership Challenges: The Project takes the approach that sustainable change to food security cannot be created by one sector alone. As such, the Project engages a wide variety of sectors at multiple levels where decisions can directly impact food security in Nunatsiavut. These sectors include environment, natural resources, renewable resources, health, and social development. Engaging multiple partners at multiple levels present myriad challenges. For example, regionally, significant influence on moving policy agendas is challenging for staff outside of NG. To address this challenge we have committed representatives from key Nunatsiavut Government departments on our Project’s Core Team whom we engage with monthly to ensure key officials are kept in the loop about Project activities and plans. It is also helpful that we work in a small well-connected region, where sectors have a history of working together to tackle complex issues in communities and regionally. The biggest strength we have been able to bring is our power to convene a diversity of people – we bring various organizations and people from different sectors to the same table successfully to connect, talk and build shared action plans on food security in Nunatsiavut.
(2) Sustainability and Organizational Capacity Challenges: A major focus of the NiKigijavut Nunatsiavutinni Project is on sustaining the efforts of the Project post funding. Capacity building at the local level has been a main goal of the Project. Training, meaningful support and guidance for local food security coordinators and committees from Food First NL have ensured local communities are equipped with the skills and resources to plan, coordinate, and address local challenges to the food systems in their communities. The Project has been able to employ 4 full-time Nunatsiavut residents to coordinate the work in the region. We have seen improvements in planning and coordination in local communities around food that show promise for continued commitment to food security interventions. Improvements in local food systems are also apparent, including improved access to and increased consumption of healthy and culturally-appropriate food, healthy lifestyle changes, decreases in prices for healthy store food, increased availability of healthy store food, and increased use of, donation to, and diversity of wild foods available through Community Freezer Programs. An anticipated challenge as we enter the final year of Project funding is in securing funding for the food security coordinator positions. Without these full-time staff dedicated to the Project’s activities on the ground, it will be difficult to maintain the momentum of the food security work on the ground.
(3) Intervention Monitoring and Evaluation: Due to the participatory nature of the Project, food security coordinators and committees are involved in monitoring household food security as well as in the monitoring and evaluation of interventions annually to inform effective modifications to programs to ensure they continue to meet the needs of participants. Local coordinators have been trained in data collection and some forms of data analysis. To ensure sustainability of the interventions, the Project partners with local residents to inform culturally-appropriate and context-specific monitoring and evaluation resources and tools, and builds capacity of local residents to continue to monitor and evaluate programs, as well as household food security status in all communities. An anticipated challenge is that without staff people delivering and collecting, summarizing and analyzing this information for presentation back to the community and local committees, this important element of the work may not be sustained. The Project is working with local and regional organizations and agencies to build support sustaining these positions, as well as this work, into the future.
(1) Community-led Decision Making: The Project has at its heart a community-led approach through all the major decision-making phases of the Project, from the Community-led Food Assessment (CLFA) and Action Planning through to intervention development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. This participatory approach has allowed for local communities to play a principal role in the decision-making process for the completion of CLFAs, and the implementation and monitoring of food security interventions in Nain, Hopedale and Rigolet. The approach has led to a diversity of strategies being implemented within each community as appropriate for their community’s needs and circumstances.
(2) Intersectoral Collaboration: Working with a diversity of partners, including local communities, regional government departments and organizations, northern food security researchers, and provincial and national decision-makers involved in food security, the Project has garnered support for project activities from a range of organizations and sectors, with the expectation that there will be increased support for and capacity to sustain the Project’s interventions and inspired activities beyond the scope of the Project’s funding.
(3) Multiple Settings and Strategies: The implemented food security interventions engage residents in multiple settings, and employ multiple strategies. In Nain, Hopedale and Rigolet, food security initiatives have been implemented at the Inuit Community Government offices, Research Centers, Community Freezers, in participant’s households, at the Department of Health and Social Development offices, and at local stores. A variety of strategies are employed through intervention implementation and operation in all communities, including gardening workshops, community events, seniors celebrations, wild food harvesting, preparation of traditional and contemporary foods, Facebook engagement and surveys, dissemination of Project information through social media, radio, posters and brochures, household visits to support garden program participants, and home deliveries of wild food from the Hopedale Community Freezer program.
(4) Combining research and practice: This project integrates multiple research elements in order to enhance community and regional dialogue, planning, and action. The most significant research elements include: (a) completion of the Household Food Security and Needs Surveys in participating communities and expansion of the survey into Makkovik and Postville, (b) sharing of the Household Food Security and Needs Survey findings with local communities and regional decision makers, (c) evaluation of the Inuit-adapted CLFA process, (c) the case analysis of three (3) food security interventions, and (d) research toward developing a Nunatsiavut-specific definition of food security.
(5) Locally-relevant and sustainability-focused evaluation activities: The Project’s evaluation activities are developed in collaboration with local coordinators and committees to ensure that the findings meet the Project’s requirements, but also are of benefit to local communities by measuring whether the interventions are meeting the needs of community. Evaluation activities throughout this year are serving as a base of evidence of the value of the Project on local Nunatsiavut communities that will be used in future funding proposals to contribute to the sustainability and uptake of the interventions and Project.
Engaging local perspectives and incorporating traditional knowledge is a major component of the NiKigijavut Nunatsiavutinni Project. At the core of the Project, is its community-led approach to decision making, which ensures local communities are central in the planning and decision making phases of the Community Led Food Assessments and Action Plans, as well as design and improvements of the Project’s food security programs in Nain, Hopedale, and Rigolet on an on-going basis.
Hiring local food security coordinators and recruiting a broad range of community members to sit on local food security committees and oversee the Project’s CLFA, Action Planning and program implementation and evaluation, inspires local ownership, dedication, and commitment. This Project views local community members as best placed to decide how best to adapt Project activities to the unique needs of their community. Nain, Hopedale, and Rigolet elders’ perspectives on the role of culture and traditional Inuit practices (harvesting, conservation, preparation and preservation) in the food environment and food culture, as well as overall health and well-being of Inuit communities are documented and recorded through the CLFA process, as well as through the food security program’s annual evaluation and planning activities. These valuable perspectives, along with other local knowledge, inform improvements to the food security programs and ensure the programs are culturally-relevant and tailored to meet each community’s unique social, cultural, historical and physical needs and circumstances. It is clear through this community-driven approach, that local ownership and direction bolsters the effectiveness and the sustainability of the food security programs.