Growing Stronger: Access to Healthy Foods in Berens River
Nadine Tonn, Community Health Sciences,
& Shirley Thompson, Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba
- Like many remote northern Manitoba communities, Berens River has limited access to affordable, healthy food, such as fresh vegetables, fruits and dairy products.
- This study asked:
- Are healthy food accessible and affordable to people?
- What are the barriers to putting healthy food on the table of community members?
- What gardening and other traditional methods of harvesting food are occurring in Berens River?
- What do people in Berens River want in order to eat healthier?
Celebrating Traditional Foods & Gardens
- Community Champions
- Stella McKay has a beautiful garden and greenhouse full of fresh vegetables including: corn, carrots, peas, peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, dill and tomatoes. If you’d like gardening advice, contact Stella at 382-2172.
- Farrah & Oliver Everette enjoy gardening with the whole family: potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, beets, carrots, corn, cucumbers. They are interested in sharing gardening tips with others and can be reached at 382-2552.
- Gerald Kemp & Virginia Bouchie enjoy eating healthy and staying active! They grow corn, potatoes, swiss chard, carrots, apples, and grapes. Contact Gerald for help with the community rototiller at 382-2161.
- Father Rheal Forest has a mixed garden of flowers and vegetables. He raises 4 goats and chickens and has veterinary training. Raising animals for food was once common in Berens River. if you would like information on small livestock, contact Father Riel at 382-2069.
- Keith Berens has knowledge of traditional medicines. If you are interested in picking traditional medicines for your family and the community, contact Keith at 382-2370.
- Programs and Contacts
- Programs are by request to help actions in communities. Contact for help and supplies:
- Northern Healthy Foods Initiative (NHFI), Manitoba Government. Contacts: Jennell Majeran, Manager, Northern Healthy Foods Initiative (204-677-6677, Jennell.Majaren@gov.mb.ca) and Jessica Paley, Northern Healthy Foods Initiative (204-945-0569, Jessica.Paley@gov.mb.ca). Programs in other communities include:
- chicken, turkey (with chicks and feed provided but not coop) goat and other small livestock production,
- freezer loans for people to buy freezers to store healthy food,
- community or school greenhouses and households receiving plastic for building a greenhouse,
- provision of vegetable seeds, berry and other bedding plants, and school grow lights, and
- an annual workshop in Thompson called Northern Harvest Forum to provide free teaching to northern community members about food production and preservation.
- 2. Manitoba Agriculture, Food & Rural Initiatives (MAFRI) provides gardening support, workshops on gardening and animal food production (ie. goats, chickens, turkeys). Contact: Dan Roche (204-372-6526, firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Northern Association of Community Councils (NACC) provides seeds, plants, gardening tools (ie. rototillers) for community and household gardens and a NHFI Community Resource Officer. Contact: Raquel Koenig (Toll-free 204-947-2227, 947-6222, email@example.com).
- Berens River School & Frontier School Division (FSD) provides healthy hot lunches. Contact: June Green (382-2153). FSD provides Veggie Adventure school activities and greenhouse and gardening expertise for northern climates. Contact: Chuck Stensgard (204-473-2332, firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Chronic Disease Prevention Initiative (CDPI) provides some funding for traditional activities, gardening and healthy snacks.
- Green Team is a 100% government funded program that employs youth to start community gardens, market gardens or help with household gardening. Fill out the application form at: http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/youth/employers/hometown.html.
- Visit “Growing Hope in Northern Manitoba” video at: http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~thompso4/Movie.html.
- Research funded by Canadian Institute of Health Research Regional
- Partnerships Program (CIHR-RRP).
- A total of 41% of households received traditional food from other community members.
- Sharing traditional foods is an important act of giving in Berens River as it strengthens culture, maintains positive community relationships and provides families with excellent nutrition.
- An evaluation of food access was conducted in Berens River (2009) using the following methods:
- A Household Food Security Survey of 50 homes in Berens River was conducted where households were randomly chosen to participate.
- Stories from community members about gardening, access and barriers to traditional foods, healthy commercial foods and community empowerment were recorded. Participatory video was used to document your stories.
John Everette skinning a beaver on the trap line.
Figure 1. Households worried money would run out (blue), money did run out (yellow), and they couldn’t afford healthy foods (green).
- Food Security Survey Results
- Local food production is important as 53% of households couldn’t afford to buy healthy food (Figure 1).
- 57% of households relied on low-cost food for children and 56% of households couldn’t afford to feed children healthy food (Figure 2). In 41% of households children weren’t able to eat enough.
- In 24% of homes children were hungry (Figure 3).
- Improving Access to Healthy Foods
- Lowering food prices: More information on governmentfreight subsidies program are needed in households.
- Gardening: Community members would like to see community gardens, family gardens, gardening workshops, a greenhouse and tours of successful gardens. Gardening material and teachings about traditional land activities, food preservation and gardening are wanted; however, most people didn’t know there was training, materials and programs that could make food production more sustainable and generate community development at Berens River.
- Promoting Healthy Eating: Greater access to nutrition and health education, cooking skills, meal planning in the community, hunting, fishing, trapping, traditional story-telling, food sharing, and “Meals on Wheels” would promote healthy eating in Berens River.
- Employment opportunities: Employment opportunities are wanted for food production, full-time gardening positions, crafts for additional income and natural resources management.
- All-Weather Road: Construction of the all-weather road (2009-2012) will greatly improve access and lower the cost of accessing healthy food.
Traditional Food Use
This is a traditional smoke house.
- Fishing provides opportunities to maintain a healthy lifestyle by strengthening families, and connecting with nature and traditional ways.
- In Berens River, 94% of the households surveyed reported having access to fish such as pickeral (walleye), whitefish, sauger, sturgeon, and suckerfish.
Figure 2. Households with children relied on low-cost food (blue), couldn’t afford healthy foods (yellow), and weren’t able to eat enough (green). 15% of households didn’t have children.
- Berens River: Growing Strong!
- Community members would like a greenhouse in Berens River. This would provide fresh foods, training and employment for the community.
- A community garden is being developed at the Health Centre.
- There are 14 household gardens and the interest is growing!
Figure 3. Households where children’s meals were small (blue), skipped (yellow), children didn’t eat for a whole day (green) and children were hungry but there was no money for food (purple).