Inuvik Community Greenhouse executive director Ray Solotki represented Inuvik at the Northern Sustainable Food Systems Roundtable in Whitehorse June 4.

Ranj Pullai, left, Kluane Adamek, Sandra Sutter, Doris Bill, Darlene Bernard, Victoria LaBillois, Hilda Broomfield-Letemplier, Ruth Williams, Maxime Vollant and Marie Delorme participated in the roundtable in Whitehorse June 4.
Photo courtesy of NIEDB

The roundtable, hosted by the National Indigenous Economic Development Board (NIEDB), fostered discussion around attaining sustainable food systems in the North.

Solotki said the discussions were positive and productive.

“There’s been a discussion about not wanting to be here in five years talking about the same thing, and perhaps instead create some ideas that we can take to the federal government about what we actually need to do in our communities now,” she said. “Food science isn’t rocket science. It’s something that’s been done since the beginning of time. Looking at the adaptability of the Indigenous groups in the North, and new technology, there’s no reason why we can’t be working with country foods as well as agricultural systems to create more opportunities for food security in the North.”

NIEDB board member Hilda Broomfield-Letemplier said the roundtable aimed to explore best practices and innovative solutions for improving food security and affordability for Northern Indigenous peoples.

“Our board initiated this work on Northern food systems in 2016 because we’d witnessed and experienced the impact food insecurity has on our communities,” said Broomfield-Letemplier.

“In a country with the wealth and prosperity of Canada, this is unacceptable … sustainable food systems support food security, which lead to healthier communities and individuals who are better able to participate in the workforce.”

She said with food security comes improvements for education, employment and economic development, but it isn’t an easy challenge to tackle.

“Northern food systems are a complex and involve many issues such as transportation costs, weather delays, importance of traditional foods, income inequality and poverty and the reliance on southern sources of food,” she said.

She added that the outcome of the roundtable will be a report that includes recommendations for the federal government to take action in the area of Northern food systems.

Solotki said one sustainable food system project she hopes to see come to fruition in Inuvik is a year-round greenhouse and country food processing plant that will double as an educational space for surrounding communities.

“We shouldn’t have to rely on a plane or a truck to bring things that we could be growing or harvesting in our own communities,” said Solotki. “We shouldn’t have to rely on transportation networks for food. Instead we should rely on each other and create economic opportunities to employ local people and empower people to have their own food systems in the North.”

She added that the potential project would create both jobs, a social space and better quality local food.

“We just need to put our hands up and say that we want to get on board. It would help not only the Indigenous population, but the entire population of the North,” she said. “It would create a little more economic equality, where it’s not just somebody with a master’s degree in agriculture coming up from the south to teach people how to do this. Anyone can learn how to run a basic hydroponic facility.”

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