Food insecurity is a serious public health issue for Aboriginal people (First Nations [FN], Métis, and Inuit) living in Canada. Food security challenges faced by FN people are unique, especially for those living in remote and isolated communities. Conceptualizations of food insecurity by FN people are poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions of food insecurity by FN adults living in a remote, on-reserve community in northern Ontario known to have a high prevalence of moderate to severe food insecurity.
A trained community research assistant conducted semi-directed interviews, and one adult from each household in the community was invited to participate. Questions addressed traditional food, coping strategies, and suggestions to improve community food security and were informed by the literature and a community advisory committee. Thematic data analyses were carried out and followed an inductive, data-driven approach.
Fifty-one individuals participated, representing 67% of eligible households. The thematic analysis revealed that food sharing, especially with family, was regarded as one of the most significant ways to adapt to food shortages. The majority of participants reported consuming traditional food (wild meats) and suggested that hunting, preserving and storing traditional food has remained very important. However, numerous barriers to traditional food acquisition were mentioned. Other coping strategies included dietary change, rationing and changing food purchasing patterns. In order to improve access to healthy foods, improving income and food affordability, building community capacity and engagement, and community-level initiatives were suggested.
Findings point to the continued importance of traditional food acquisition and food sharing, as well as community solutions for food systems change. These data highlight that traditional and store-bought food are both part of the strategies and solutions participants suggested for coping with food insecurity. Public health policies to improve food security for FN populations are urgently needed.
In Canada, unique food security challenges are being faced by Aboriginal people living in remote-northern communities due to the impacts of climate change on subsistence harvesting. This study used traditional environmental knowledge (TEK) to investigate whether there was a temporal relationship between extreme climatic events in the summer of 2005, and fish die-offs in the Albany River, northern Ontario, Canada. Also, TEK was utilized to examine a potential shift in subsistence fish species distribution due to climate change.
To investigate whether there was a temporal relationship between the fish die-offs of July 2005 (as identified by TEK) and an extreme climatic event, temperature and daily precipitation data for Moosonee weather station were utilized. To determine if there was an increasing trend in mean maximal summer temperatures with year, temperature data were examined, using regression analysis. Present-day fish distributions were determined using unpublished TEK data collated from previous studies and purposive, semi-directive interviews with elders and experienced bushman.
Fish die-offs in 2005 occurred during the time period 11-18 July, as reported by participants. Recorded air-temperature maxima of the two July 2005 heat waves delineate exactly the time period of fish die-offs. Two heat waves occurring during the same summer season and so close together has never before been recorded for this region. A highly significant (p
To measure and describe the prevalence and severity of household food insecurity in a remote on-reserve First Nations community using the Household Food Security Survey Module (HFSSM) and to evaluate the perceived relevance of the HFSSM for this population.
Household food security status was determined from the eighteen-item HFSSM following the classifications developed by Health Canada for the Canadian Community Health Survey, Cycle 2·2 Nutrition. One adult from each household in the community was invited to complete the HFSSM and to comment on its relevance as a tool to measure food security for First Nations communities.
Sub-Arctic Ontario, Canada.
Households (n 64).
Seventy per cent of households were food insecure, 17% severely and 53% moderately. The prevalence of food insecurity in households with children was 76%. Among respondents from homes rated as having severe food insecurity, all (100 %) reported worrying that food would run out, times when food didn't last and there wasn't money to buy more, and times when they couldn't afford to eat balanced meals. The majority of respondents felt the HFSSM did not capture an accurate picture of food security for their situation. Aspects missing from the HFSSM included the high cost of market food and the incorporation of traditional food practices.
A high prevalence of household food insecurity was reported in this community. On-reserve remote First Nations communities may be more susceptible to food insecurity than off-reserve Aboriginal populations. Initiatives that promote food security for this vulnerable population are needed.
In Canada, food insecurity exists among Aboriginal (Inuit, Metis and First Nations) people living in remote northern communities, in part, because of their reliance on the industrialized, import-based food system. Local food production as a substitute to imports would be an adaptive response, but enhancement of food security via food localization requires reflection on previous failings of conventional agricultural strategies so that informed decisions can be made. In light of potential reintroduction of local food production in remote First Nations communities, we investigated the cultural, social and ecological effects of a 20th century, Euro-Canadian agrarian settlement on the food system of a subarctic First Nation; this will act as the first step in developing a more sustainable local food program and enhancing food security in this community.
To investigate the socio-cultural impacts of the Euro-Canadian agrarian initiative on the food system of Fort Albany First Nation, purposive, semi-directive interviews were conducted with elders and other knowledgeable community members. Interview data were placed into themes using inductive analyses. To determine the biophysical impact of the agrarian initiative, soil samples were taken from one site within the cultivated area and from one site in an undisturbed forest area. Soil properties associated with agricultural use and productivity were assessed. To compare the means of a given soil property between the sites, one-tailed t-tests were employed. Vegetative analysis was conducted in both sites to assess disturbance.
According to the interviewees, prior to the agrarian initiative, First Nation families harvested wild game and fish, and gathered berries as well as other forms of vegetation for sustenance. With the introduction of the residential school and agrarian initiative, traditional food practices were deemed inadequate, families were forced to work and live in the settlement (becoming less reliant on traditional foods), and yet little knowledge sharing of agricultural practices occurred. When the residential school and agrarian movement came to an end in the 1970s, First Nation community members were left to become reliant on an import food system. The mission's agrarian techniques resulted in overall degradation of soil quality and ecological integrity: compared the natural boreal forest, the cultivated area had been colonized by invasive species and had significantly lower soil levels of nitrogen, magnesium and organic carbon, and significantly higher levels of phosphorus and bulk density.
Because the agrarian initiative was not a viable long-term approach to food security in Fort Albany, the people became more reliant on imported goods. Taking into account climate change, there exists an opportunity whereby fruits and vegetables, historically stunted-in-growth or outside the distributional range of subarctic Canada, could now grow in the north. Together, agroecosystem stewardship practices and community-based, autonomous food security programs have the potential to increase locally grown food availability in a sustainable manner.