Our Food NL

Our Food in Coast of Bays

Applying the learnings from Northern Labrador to communities on Newfoundland's southern shore

coast of bays.jpg

Food First NL recently received multiyear (2017-2020) funding through the Public Health Agency of Canada's Innovation Strategy for the Our Food NL Project. The Project builds off the learnings from the NiKigijavut Nunatsiavutinni: Our Food in Nunatsiavut Project and aims to further enhance access to healthy and culturally-appropriate food in Newfoundland and Labrador at local, regional, and provincial levels.

The Our Food NL Project will partner with Conne River/Miawpukek First Nation, Pool's Cove, and Rencontre East to take a deeper look at the factors impacting access to healthy food, and support the creation of programs in each community that address local challenges accessing food. This Project intends to build off of Food First NL’s work in Nunatsiavut through the NiKigijavut Nunatsiavutinni Project.

The hiring process for three Community Food Security Coordinator positions in these communities has begun, and Community-led Food Assessments to inform locally-tailored and culturally-appropriate actions to support food security are expected to be underway in winter 2018. 

Food First NL is excited about this partnership, which will bring the significant learnings from a northern, Indigenous context achieved through NiKigijavut Nunatsiavutinni to both a First Nations and a non-Indigenous context on the island of Newfoundland.

 

NiKigijavut Nunatsiavutinni: 
Our Food in Nunatsiavut

Communities in Northern Labrador finding ways to overcome food insecurity

The communities of Nunatsiavut face a complex system of food security challenges that impact access to both traditional wild food and contemporary store-bought food. Overcoming these challenges means intervening at critical points in the food system.

With a focus on improving access to healthy food, as well as building healthy food skills and capacity at an individual, institutional, and community level, Our Food in Nunatsiavut is contributing to a vision where all residents of Nunatsiavut have sustained access to foods that are both healthy and culturally appropriate.

This happens primarily through a community-led food assessment (CLFA), which brings residents together to examine issues affecting access to food, and develop solutions that will overcome these challenges in a locally-appropriate manner. Through Our Food in Nunatsiavut, CLFAs have been carried out in Hopedale and Rigolet.

This work has led to the creation of four new, and expansion of two existing, programs aimed at addressing local food security challenges. Key challenges identified in the communities include social, environmental, and economic barriers to accessing traditional, wild foods, as well as the high-cost, limited availability, and poor quality of store-bought food.

Among the new programs established are: a Good Food Box program in Rigolet and a Community Gardening Program in Hopedale.

The project is led at the community level by the Hopedale and Rigolet Inuit Community Governments, with support as needed from Food First NL and funding provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

 

With no road linkages between communities in Nunatsiavut, all food shipped up Labrador's north coast is transported by plane or boat.


With no road linkages between communities in Nunatsiavut, all food shipped up Labrador's north coast is transported by plane or boat.

Store Food Shortages

The occasional empty store shelf is not an uncommon sight in Newfoundland and Labrador. However, unpredictable weather, unpaved and unlit runways,  and mechanical issues with the coastal ferry means further challenges getting food to the remote communities in Northern Labrador, where shelves are regularly bare for long stretches of time. With no road linkages to other communities or major wholesalers, all food shipped up Labrador’s north coast is transported by plane or boat. Food First NL’s Community Led Food Assessments in Nunatsiavut outlined some of the major barriers residents face to accessing healthy store food, including frequent empty shelves, high costs of food, decreased nutritional value, and increased spoilage of food due to shipping and storage methods.

In Rigolet, residents like Belinda Shiwak felt frustrated about the lack of affordable, healthy store food in their town.

“Fresh vegetables and fruits are an expensive luxury,” Shiwak says. “We have only one store. The food is expensive, sometimes it is old and out-of-date, and sometimes not even there to purchase.”

The Good Food Box

One solution that came up to address store food shortages in Rigolet: Coordinate a group of people to order in bulk, and share the cost of shipping.

“We found out that many residents were interested in bulk buying and wanted programs which offered cheaper shipping, better quality and reasonably priced food,” says Carlene Palliser, coordinator of the Our Food in Nunatsiavut project for Rigolet.

The first bulk order was placed in November of 2014 — with 55 out of 98 households in town participating. That number went up to 63 in January, amounting to 64 per cent of all households in Rigolet. 

The Good Food Box Program alternates between offering boxes of healthy fruits and vegetables and healthy meats in the community. Through the Rigolet Community-Led Food Assessment, residents said there is less healthy meat available in the community since the caribou ban has been in effect, and expressed a need for better access to quality meat. “We offer meat boxes and ensure everyone can participate, no matter what income they are at,” says Palliser. “A typical box contains a whole chicken, pork roast, beef roast, chicken legs, lean ground beef, and stewing beef.”

Residents have already seen the wider effects of the Good Food Box beyond their dinner tables.

“This fall, the price of the turkeys at the store was outrageous, as in $70 a turkey,” Palliser says. “We had a 10-pound turkey in the Good Food Box listed for sale for $33. I went shopping a few weeks ago and the price of the turkey went down to something like $34.  The meats, although frozen, are looking fresher there as well.”

The Rigolet Good Food Box program marked an exciting milestone in September 2017--the first order of Good Food Boxes filled with local Labrador produce! The boxes were teeming with freshly pulled carrots, eight- to ten-pound cabbage heads, potatoes, and other local root vegetables grown 160 kilometres southwest of Rigolet, at Nature's Best Farm in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

This is the first tomato of 2015 grown by Carlene Palliser—Our Food in Rigolet Coordinator and beginner gardener. Locally-grown food is in short supply in Rigolet, so a backyard garden skill-sharing program was organized in the spring of 2015 as part of the Food First NL CLFA. Six beginner gardeners were mentored by five community members with gardening experience. 77 of 98 households responded to the CLFA survey in the town, with 96 per cent of respondents reporting concerns with food.


This is the first tomato of 2015 grown by Carlene Palliser—Our Food in Rigolet Coordinator and beginner gardener. Locally-grown food is in short supply in Rigolet, so a backyard garden skill-sharing program was organized in the spring of 2015 as part of the Food First NL CLFA. Six beginner gardeners were mentored by five community members with gardening experience. 77 of 98 households responded to the CLFA survey in the town, with 96 per cent of respondents reporting concerns with food.

Gardening Programs

Community members in Hopedale felt that part of the solution to achieving food security came from the past: gardening.

There is a long history of successful gardening in Labrador, dating back to the 1700s, when Moravian missionaries gardened in the region. 

Raised-bed gardening was a necessity in Hopedale, as the soil is primarily sand, and the town is built on bedrock.

“They had gardens, and if they did it, we can do it,” says Juliana Flowers, coordinator of NiKigijavut Hopedalimi: Our Food in Hopedale, which is supporting a new raised bed community garden for Hopedale residents.

Potatoes, turnips, carrots, spinach, cabbage, beets, onion, calendula, and mesclun were grown in the community garden.

As part of the project, Food First NL is providing information sessions and workshops, where residents learned about gardening, composting and greenhouses, as well as the methods to extend the growing season.

 

Baker Lake Community-Led Food Assessment

As a result of the success of Our Food in Nunatsiavut, Food First NL established partnerships with the Nunavut Food Security Coalition and the Hamlet of Baker Lake to support the expansion of this model to Baker Lake, Nunavut.

As a result of the success of Our Food in Nunatsiavut, Food First NL established partnerships with the Nunavut Food Security Coalition and the Hamlet of Baker Lake to support the expansion of this model to Baker Lake, Nunavut.

Through a CLFA completed in 2015, which engaged a wide-range of local residents in the community, key food security issues arose, including increasing barriers accessing adequate traditional, wild food; high costs and poor quality of store food; and need for improved healthy food knowledge and skills within the community.

As a result, a Community Kitchen Program was implemented as the priority initiative, which aims to improve basic food knowledge and skills, as well as access to nutritious meals for residents.

 

What is a Community-Led Food Assessment?

A community-led food assessment (CFLA) is a process that examines all of the issues affecting access to food in an area. Residents come together to identify areas for improvement and to develop solutions that work for them. 

Food First NL coordinated CLFAs in three Inuit communities in Rigoletand Hopedale under the project name NiKigijavut Nunatsiavutinni: Our Food in Nunatsiavut. 

“The term ‘community-led’ is an important part of what makes all of these projects unique,” says Food First NL Executive Director Kristie Jameson. “With a community-led food assessment the discussion and decision-making is happening in the community where the program is taking place, by the people involved. People understand their community’s strengths and know where things need to improve, and they’re best equipped to develop solutions that will work locally.”  

Funding support for the Our Food NL Project comes from the Public Health Agency of Canada, Innovation Strategy on Achieving Healthier Weights in Canada's Communities.