Indigenous Communities
in Canada

Focused on community-led, self-defined food security and food sovereignty initiatives
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Indigenous Communities

in Canada
Focused on community-led, self-defined food security and food sovereignty initiatives
In Canada, Indigenous children and families face higher poverty, more food insecurity and greater health inequities than non-Indigenous people.

Indigenous peoples have lived and thrived on the lands and waters of Turtle Island, now called Canada, for millennia. European colonization, which has meant land dispossession, dislocation, social exclusion, and the loss of traditional knowledge, has led to higher rates of poverty, poorer health, and greater food insecurity among First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples today compared to the non-Indigenous population.

We work with Indigenous community partners in a respectful, collaborative way supporting  Indigenous-led leadership and solutions to the systemic problems affecting Indigenous people related to food, nutrition, and the environment.

In alignment with the community’s self-defined goals and strategies, the initiatives we fund share the goal to advance and advocate for food sovereignty for First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples as a pathway to long-term, sustainable food security.

In 26 communities across Turtle Island, you are helping to reduce child hunger and improve food security by:

providing 342,775 meals in school

establishing 200 *new* gardens (for a total of 519)

growing 13,000+ lbs of food through gardens and food forests

engaging 2,563 people in land-based education

The recovery of the people is tied to the recovery of food, since food itself is medicine: not only for the body, but for the soul, for the spiritual connection to history, ancestors, and the land.

WINONA LADUKE, ANISHINAABEKWE ACTIVIST, ENVIRONMENTALIST, ECONOMIST, AND WRITER

The Challenges

FOOD INSECURITY

Healthy food is priced out of reach for many Indigenous families, especially in communities located >50 km from a major centre. Food available locally is often expensive and of low quality. The cost of supplies and transportation plus the loss of traditional knowledge about food gathering, growing and hunting limits Indigenous peoples’ abilities to live off the land and waters that have sustained them for millennia.

POOR HEALTH

Indigenous children and adults experience inequities in the social determinants of health – equal access to food, housing, education, income, social and cultural belonging, etc. – that result in incidence of disease and illness far in excess of the general population, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, addictions and mental health issues, among others.

Poverty

Indigenous people experience the highest levels of poverty in Canada, with 1 in 4 First Nations, Métis and Inuit people living in poverty. Approximately 4 in 10 Indigenous children live in poverty, with significant effects on their mental and physical health, and life outcomes.

COLONIZATION & INTERGENERATIONAL TRAUMA

The impact of colonization, land dispossession, and ongoing racism plus the legacy of residential schools have led to the loss of Indigenous ways of knowing and being and have resulted in lasting, intergenerational harm to Indigenous peoples’ social, economic, spiritual and cultural wellbeing.

Current Initiatives

CHILD HUNGER & NUTRITION

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School food programs are one of the most effective ways to help improve children’s nutrition, reduce childhood hunger, and improve longer-term health and learning outcomes. But they must be built on best practices and linked to self-determined community development goals for food security and food sovereignty. CFTC supports children’s nutrition through:
  • Universal, sustainable, comprehensive and culturally-appropriate school food programs
  • Nutrition education in schools and communities – including the incorporation of traditional foods and Indigenous food culture
  • Land-based education that connects children, youth and adults to Indigenous ways of knowing lost through colonization, and rebuilds local food systems, traditions and culture

FOOD SECURITY & FOOD SOVEREIGNTY

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CFTC partners with Indigenous communities on Indigenous-led and self-defined initiatives that advance and advocate for food sovereignty as a pathway to long-term, sustainable food security.

We seek to support Indigenous people who are strengthening connections to local land and food systems and increasing their capacity to shape and steward healthy, culturally-appropriate food systems.

Initiatives improve access to and availability of affordable, culturally-appropriate, nutritious food consistent with each Nation’s unique food traditions. Greater food security will, in turn, help improve the health of children, youth, families, Elders and Nations, recognizing that health encompasses physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of an Indigenous person in reciprocal relationships with their families, communities, the land, the environment, their ancestors, and future generations.

INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY HEALTH

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CFTC supports Indigenous self-defined and led initiatives that deliver practical, community-level solutions that address the root causes of ongoing poorer health among Indigenous people. Initiatives seek to improve the physical, mental, emotional, cultural, and spiritual health of children, youth, families, Elders, communities, and Nations and may include strategies that:
  • Redress inequities in the social determinants of health (e.g., by improving access to health resources, enhancing living conditions, strengthening cultural and social cohesion and inclusion, and/or reducing poverty)
  • • Focus on food, lifestyle and traditional practices that can help prevent disease and aid recovery from high-priority mental and physical health issues that disproportionally affect Indigenous people (e.g., cardiovascular disease, diabetes, substance abuse and addiction, etc.)
  • Build and share knowledge and capacity, bringing Indigenous and non-Indigenous experts and expertise together to advance and promote better community health practices

INDIGENOUS YOUTH ENGAGEMENT

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CFTC supports programs for Indigenous youth that are grounded in traditional practices and that increase belonging and inclusion, self-esteem and cultural identity, health, wellness, and self-esteem.

Initiatives are strengths-based and skills-building, supporting self-discovery of educational and vocational opportunities that provide a path to more positive life and health outcomes for Indigenous youth, whether they remain in their home communities or venture beyond them for academics or employment.

CLIMATE ACTION & LOCAL FOOD SYSTEMS
(including Food Forests)

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CFTC collaborates on programs that bring Indigenous ways of knowing together with Western practices to unleash innovations that address the biggest existential threat of our time – climate change – and its impacts on agriculture, livelihoods, food security, Indigenous peoples’ health, and the sustainability of the lands and waters on which we all depend.

You can help support strategies that focus on:

  • Technological innovations that increase food production in an environmentally responsible way
  • Indigenous-led, holistic approaches to climate action, land and water stewardship
  • Local food systems transformation and building sustainable ecosystems: e.g., establishing food forests, rewilding and “green-spacing”, agriculture and horticulture programs that increase availability of and access to fresh, culturally-appropriate food
  • Land-based education, led by Knowledge Keepers and Elders, that facilitates inter-generational knowledge transfer and sharing/learning traditional teachings and practices, bridging the loss of Indigenous ways of knowing that has occurred because of colonization
  • Food sharing and nutrition education focused on traditional food and medicine growing and gathering.

Partner with us

Join a growing community committed to making long-term change
Members of the leadership
giving circle

Hearing from communities

About their most significant change
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One of the biggest changes this year is people’s involvement in community activities. We re-started our community garden and planted 1,200 potato plants and 600 onion sets. We’ve also had people just come to the garden and weed when they want to be outside. It’s an exciting change from the pandemic!
JENNIFER, BEARDY’S & OKEMASIS’ CREE NATION
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I think it is important that we have meals at school because some kids may not have access to healthy meals at home. In order for your body to feel right and your brain to be healthy, you need to fuel it with healthy food to learn.
GRAYCE, NATOAGENEG (EEL GROUND FIRST NATION)
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This was the silver lining to COVID, people started to think about food security and sustainability. It’s getting back to the old ways, the traditional ways, looking at what foods we have available to us in the community. We are excited to see full community participation. It started with our young people.
DEE, COORDINATOR HEALTHY LIVING PROGRAM, NEYAASHIINIGMIING
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In our culture, we need our foods. Hunting, gardening. When we go on hunting trips, I just love seeing us all getting involved in everything. Seeing my grandparents so happy. Because us younger kids are doing what they used to do when they were younger. Traditions.
JADA, BIRCH NARROWS (TURNOR LAKE) DENE NATION
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We teach our young ones how to process the food and where it comes from. Being out on the land is education and I think it’s a valuable education. It’s going to stick with them and they’re going to share this. That’s the mission: to keep our culture alive and to share our knowledge.
MARCUS, CHIEF, RED ROCK INDIAN BAND
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    Results & Impact

    We are achieving together
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    Food Hampers


    4,293
    food hampers (40,617 meals) provided to 589 households
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    Nutrition & Agricultural Training


    4,081
    people (including 1,520 students) trained on nutrition, cooking or food use
    1,024
    people received agricultural training
    348
    people provided with garden inputs (seeds, tools, soils, etc.)
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    Gardens


    58
    community gardens support 1,127 families
    425
    home gardens support 445 families
    36
    school gardens support 1,085 students
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    Community Food Programs


    7,916
    people supported
    488
    households received harvested food
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    Land-Based Education


    2,563
    people engaged
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    Community Partners

    DELIVERING COMMUNITY-LED RESULTS TOGETHER
    CFTC partners with the following 26 Indigenous communities:
    • Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, SK
    • Atikameg (Whitefish Lake First Nation), AB
    • Beardy's & Okemasis' Cree Nation, SK
    • Biigtigong Nishnaabeg, ON
    • Birch Narrows Dene Nation, SK
    • Clearwater River Dene Nation, SK
    • Elsipogtog First Nation, NB
    • Esgenoôpetitj First Nation, NB
    • Garden Hill First Nation, MB
    • Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation, NWT
    • Montreal Lake Cree Nation, SK
    • Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, SK
    • Natoaganeg First Nation (Eel Ground First Nation), NB
    • Neqotkuk (Tobique First Nation - Mah-Sos)
    • Neqotkuk (Tobique First Nation - Perth-Andover)
    • Neyaashiinigmiing (Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation), ON
    • O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation, MB
    • Red Rock First Nation, ON
    • Saddle Lake Boys and Girls Club, AB
    • Sambaa K'e First Nation, NWT
    • Sayisi Dene First Nation (Tadoule Lake), MB
    • Stein Valley, BC
    • Thompson Boys and Girls Club, MB
    • Tulita, NWT
    • Wasagamack, MB
    • Waywayseecappo, MB

    The Team & Approach

    Working Towards Truth & Reconciliation

    We believe that decolonization, anti-racism, reconciliation, and self-determination aims are all better achieved working in equitable, meaningful partnerships such as those built via CFTC’s participatory, community-led approach to programming.

    As a settler organization, CFTC recognizes our own privilege and the need to go beyond good intentions. Our Indigenous Programs team is an essential link between the community's self-identified development priorities and the resources available to make them happen.

    Sydney Richards

    Interim Director, Indigenous Partnerships and Programs
    Read Full Bio

    JOIN US TO SUPPORT LONG-TERM CHANGE

    With Indigenous communities in the lead, we will build a future with:
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      Less hunger, better food security, and healthier children, youth, families, Elders, communities, and Nations
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      Ready access to affordable, culturally-appropriate, nutritious food
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      Thriving agriculture and local food systems and sustainable, Indigenous-led land and water stewardship
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      Strong connections to culture, land and food systems through land-based education that rebuilds Indigenous traditions and knowledge across generations
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      Recognition of the holistic Indigenous conception of health (mental, physical, emotional and spiritual; in relationship with families, communities, the land, and past and future generations) 1,2,3
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      Best practices to improve the understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing shared with non-Indigenous stakeholders
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      Indigenous sovereignty over and self-determination of Indigenous systems by Indigenous peoples

    Get in touch

    Please wait...

    Thank you for sharing our commitment to help children thrive!

    For more information, please reach out to Fawad Iqbal at [email protected]

    Thank you for sharing our commitment to help children thrive!

    For more information, please reach
    out to Fawad Iqbal at
    [email protected]

    REFERENCES

    1   Okpalauwaekwe, U, Ballantyne C, Tunison S and Ramsden V, Enhancing health and wellness by, for and with Indigenous youth in Canada: A scoping reviewBMC Public Health, 2022.

    2   National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health (NCCIH), Social Determinants of Health, retrieved May 4, 2023.

    3   Assembly of First Nations, University of Ottawa and Université de Montréal, First Nations Food, Nutrition and Environment Study: Summary of Findings and Recommendations for eight Assembly of First Nations regions 2008-2018, October 2021.