GROWING A FOOD SECURE FUTURE

The Martin Family Initiative (MFI) is keenly aware of the challenges Indigenous People in Canada face with regard to food security. Food in northern communities is in short supply, expensive, and often of lower-quality.

The Food Sustainability Program (FSP) supports Indigenous communities in addressing food insecurity through hands-on learning approaches and engaging elementary and high school students

Through its programming, FSP acknowledges the rich history and relationship Indigenous People have with the land. MFI works with each community to identify actions that will provide greater food security. Engaging students and youth is critical for the prosperity of a community. MFI recognizes the importance of Elders and traditional knowledge keepers to guide community action and sharing traditional ways with youth.

Although COVID-19 has interrupted regular transport services bringing food to remote areas, one community in FSP was able to share produce grown in their greenhouse with five other neighbouring communities. Nevertheless, since the beginning of the pandemic, MFI has been approached by several Indigenous communities negatively affected by the irregular food supply.

As part of our partnership, MFI:
  • Provide a platform for educators to access lesson plans and resources.
  • Create a forum for teachers and community members to share their successes and seek support from other Northern Indigenous communities and MFI FSP leaders.
  • Support community vision for improved food security.
  • Maintain regular contact with designated representative(s).
  • Support the purchase of a greenhouse system, when possible.
  • Meet and visit with community members and stakeholders.
Goals:
  1. To increase access to affordable, fresh food.
  2. To provide a hands-on educational experience regarding food security, growing, and traditional Indigenous food and gathering practices.
  3. To engage at a community level with the question of food security specific to their context.

Purpose

Provide schools and communities with low-cost, high-yield food production systems to grow vegetables, berries, and leafy greens. Methods for growing food include: community garden, hydroponic systems, micro-green approach, growth tunnels/greenhouses, and growth containers.

  • Community gardens, for instance, promote social bonding. Research shows gardening reduces anxiety, relaxes the mind, especially when it includes a strong cultural component
  • Hydroponic systems are relatively inexpensive and can be located in a central location or distributed in homes and classrooms.
  • Microgreens uses simple plastic trays to grow peas or lentils—and they do not require special lights or location. The taste and use of these crops may be new to the people and many families may be reluctant to try them. That’s why fun and engaging workshops on how to incorporate microgreens will be valuable. Although production is continuous, the amount harvested weekly is low.
  • Growth tunnels and greenhouses extend the farming season. A greenhouse in Northern Saskatchewan can be used from the end of February to the end of November and will accommodate hydroponic systems and traditional planting methods. Once the infrastructure is built, maintenance costs are low and food production inexpensive. Growth tunnels extend the season for root vegetables as there are four or five months of no food production.
  • Hydroponic growth containers are self-contained system and can operate all year. They contain high technology support systems that produce high volumes of food per square meter. One or more employees have to be trained.

New Projects Underway:
  • Elementary school garden club
  • Community composting
  • Community cold cellar
  • Expanding the stakeholders to include the health authority
  • Both the elementary school and the high school started to offer a fresh buffet at no cost to students.
  • Students are learning about traditional food practices such as hunting, fishing, wild rice collecting, and berry picking. A cultural camp has been set-up to support these activities.
  • Since April 11, teachers and community members prepared and distributed 150 Good Food Boxes every Saturday to Elders, students’ families, and anyone else in need.