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Canadian Feed The Children’s partnerships with Indigenous communities across Canada are building sustainable, self-sufficient food systems to end food insecurity for good.

For many Indigenous communities, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the need for local food systems based on traditional food practices more urgent than ever. Eleven-year-old Zoe in Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation (Neyaashiinigmiing) agrees.

“Do I think we need to get back to more of those food practices? Absolutely!” she says. “Is it going to be easy? No, it’s not. But we need to start somewhere, and we need to start now.”

Zoe’s community is one of 26 who have partnered with national charity Canadian Feed The Children (CFTC) to re-establish local food systems and boost sustainable food security. Indigenous peoples have higher rates of food insecurity than any other population group in Canada. Cultural disruption, loss of viable land, industrial activity, and climate change have all had a devastating effect on Indigenous communities’ ability to grow and harvest the traditional foods that are critical to their nutrition and good health. These challenges were exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With supply chain disruptions, job losses, and lockdown measures making it hard to obtain fresh, nutritious food, community-led partnerships with charities such as CFTC have had a positive impact in feeding those most vulnerable and hardest hit by the pandemic.

Partnerships are critical to COVID-19 urgent food response

Young girl eating an apple in the outdoors
Photo courtesy of CFTC.

CFTC’s partnerships with Indigenous communities have led to tailored, local responses to long-standing food insecurity challenges, as well as those created by the pandemic.

Local chiefs, band councils, families, and community leaders, such as Dorothy Ahenakew, Food Security Coordinator with Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, have been critical to the COVID-19 urgent food response. “To try to alleviate the urgent need for food, I helped organize 300 grocery hampers to be sent to families in the Nation with fresh and nutritious food to supplement their supply,” she says. In addition, the Nation’s band bought non-perishable foods, harvested meat, and purchased fish to distribute to community members.

Going forward, partner communities will work with CFTC to ensure self-sufficient food security through community gardens, food forests, land-based education, and traditional food harvesting, processing, and distribution.

This change is being led by everyone, including the youngest community members. Zoe is one of them. Having learned from her elders, she now leads her peers in foraging and in tending the school orchard. “It’s really great to see everybody come together and make something that we can all benefit from,” she says. “Sometimes, we’re able to give some of the food that we’ve gathered to other people in the community. This makes me feel good about myself.”

A global campaign for long-term food security

CTFC is launching the Together for Children campaign this fall to support long-term food security for children in Canada and around the world. The campaign seeks to educate the public on the factors that lead to hunger and food insecurity, and how they can be part of positive change.

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