For Indigenous cultures, food is an integral part of their traditions. Their relationship to food is holistic and sustainable, based on mutual respect for the animals they hunt, and the fruits and vegetables they harvest. Indigenous women play an important role in transmitting cultural teachings and knowledge to new generations on how to prepare traditional foods. Each community has their own traditional foods relating to their location and means of hunting, foraging and gathering. Through the ongoing effects of colonialism, traditional Indigenous lands have been destroyed, polluted and used as a commodity. This has led to a destruction of habitats and loss of wildlife, making it increasingly difficult for Indigenous communities to traditionally live off the land. An inaccessibility to traditional foods means Indigenous communities must rely on western food, which is not always affordable or accessible.
According to the Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people who participated in the NWAC online surveys, their current access to western food is unreliable and unsustainable. Many communities face a simultaneous lack of accessibility to healthy food options, seasonal shortages due to the effects of climate change, lack of locally sourced fresh food, and more. These barriers have caused communities to have to deal with growing knowledge gaps on plant medicines, violence at food banks and community feasts, and families going hungry. As a key demographic to the national food policy, these issues and concerns must be addressed.
A key list of recommendations was developed with input from NWAC’s Board of Directors, discussions from the grassroots engagement sessions and feedback from the online surveys. The four types of recommendations fell under access to the land; funding for culturally appropriate, nutritious and safe foods; research, business and industry development; and addressing the needs of Indigenous women. Through the implementation of these recommendations, we can work towards communities having sustainable, affordable, healthy and accessible foods year-long.