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Hackathon on food security held in Nain

Participants from across Canada discussed food security at a hackathon in Nain recently.
Participants from across Canada discussed food security at a hackathon in Nain recently.

Northerners from across country gathered in Nain last month to discuss food security as part of a Northern Policy Hackathon hosted by The Gordon Foundation.

Kristeen McTavish, Food Security Coordinator for Nunatsiavut, attended the two days of meetings and said when they were approached to host the event they were excited.

“Food security is an issue that has been at the top of the agenda for the last little while in the region so anything to help to bring people together and push that conversation forward we jump at,” she told the Labradorian.

The hackathon is the first in a series the Gordon Foundation is doing to support the development of policy that is reflective of, and responsive to the needs, cultures, and context of the North.

“We see the Northern Policy Hackathon as an opportunity to bring people together to foster pan-northern networks and ensure that policies impacting northern life are made by the North for the North,” said Sherry Campbell, the President and CEO of The Gordon Foundation.

 

McTavish said the event, which was invitation only, had a mix of policy experts, food security experts, community level folks who are running programs.

“We had some elders present, hunters and harvesters as well, and we had a few youth who are working with us here on internships,” she said. “It’s really exciting to be able to share ideas over the course of two days but also to now be connected to these different people. Just to hear from people in different areas, what they’re having success with but also what the challenges are, and how we can overcome them.”

One of the programs from different regions that McTavish said drew her attention was a facility set up in the western arctic for secondary processing of country foods and harvested foods. She said they are able to run training courses to show people how to turn wild meat into sausages, how to turn them into secondary products that will last longer or that they can market.

Another idea that caught her eye was a group who had created a facility so they could serve country food in one of their health care facilities. They’d cook it in large batches and flash freeze it and prepare meals to go. A Nunatsiavut program that the other groups were interested in was the community freezers.

“There was a lot of interest in the different freezers,” she said. “They operate differently in different communities and in the evening session, we were able to give the folks a tour of our freezer in Nain. It’s just fantastic to have people from across the region here to pick their brains about what they’ve found successful.”

McTavish said it was interesting because each region is at a different stage when it comes to food security.

Food security is a big issue in each region and Nunavut has had a food security strategy and coalition that was established a few years ago, Nunavik is just starting theirs, and Nunatsiavut will be starting one in the New Year.

“Food security is something that people have always known was an issue but it was identified by solid numbers in 2008 by the Inuit Health Survey,” she said. “We know the Caribou ban has had a lot of impact, as well as other things, like increases in prices of energy and heating and housing. All these things impact it and the most recent study done in 2014 shows an increase in food insecurity since the 2008 survey. That’s not the direction we need to be going and we need to take a hard look at how to bring those numbers down.”

 The Northern Policy Hackathon is held with the support of the Nunatsiavut Government, Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security, Mitacs, and the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th, a collaboration between Community Foundations of Canada and the Government of Canada.

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