Northern Communities Improving Self-Sufficiency With Healthy Food Projects

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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Speaking at the Northern Harvest Security Forum, Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Minister Oscar Lathlin today congratulated the producers and partners for their successes in fostering more food production in the north, particularly in remote northern communities.

The two-day forum featured workshops on traditional and current northern food production including canning, pickling, composting, livestock rearing and traditional foods and teas.

Many northern Manitoba communities are becoming more self-sufficient by growing their own vegetables and raising small animals, such as goats and chickens, under a series of projects supported by the province and other partners, Lathlin said.

"Healthy foods should be a part of everyone's diet but these items are expensive in the north," Lathlin said. "Since we launched the Northern Healthy Foods Initiative in 2005, more than 400 vegetable gardens have been planted in communities all over the north and some residents are now raising their own animals as well as using freezers to preserve locally harvested wildlife products."

The Northern Healthy Foods Initiative is a series of projects partnered by the Bayline Regional Roundtable, the Four Arrows Regional Health Authority, the Northern Association of Community Councils and the Frontier School Division, with contributions by communities and federal government departments. This year, the initiative will expand with the addition of the Northern Mobilization Project.

The province is funding the initiative in 2008-09 with increased grants totalling more than $600,000, which has leveraged support from a number of other sources along with participation from local residents and numerous organizations.

"The initiative has grown to include 28 communities and has recorded many successes," Lathlin said. "With the addition of new partners, our goal is to expand into a further six to eight communities in the northwest region of the province."

The initiative has been instrumental in funding the purchase of some 160 freezers, the construction of eight greenhouses and has helped support 15 families involved in chicken and goat farming.

The initiative is designed to help northern communities in significant ways including:

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· increasing food self-sufficiency;

· providing seed, fertilizer and other key supplies;

· providing nutrition education that integrates traditional and modern gardening and food preparation techniques;

· helping families rediscover healthy local food sources;

· promoting traditional harvesting and preservation of wild foods;

· reducing the importation of high-cost, low-nutrition foods;

· encouraging the local economy of harvesters and self-sufficiency;

· improving environmental awareness; and

· providing hope that, in the long term, communities will reduce and prevent chronic disease through healthier diets.

"It may seem like a small thing to grow vegetables in a plot of land that is tiny by comparison to large modern farms in the south, but to people in the north, this can bring a huge improvement to their lives," Lathlin said.

Lathlin thanked the partners and supporters of the Northern Harvest Forum the Manitoba Food Charter, the Hudson Bay Neighbours Regional Round Table, the Northern Association of Community Councils, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Heifer International, along with a number of provincial government departments including Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives and Manitoba Health and Healthy Living.

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