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Food security team a growing concern

When Waywayseecappo First Nation residents come together this evening for a meal, they’ll be hearing all about the food security team’s proposed plans for 2020 — more gardening and gathering, as well as fishing and hunting.

When Waywayseecappo First Nation residents come together this evening for a meal, they’ll be hearing all about the food security team’s proposed plans for 2020 — more gardening and gathering, as well as fishing and hunting.

And with donations coming in, it’s time to register as a legal entity and open a bank account, said Sarah Cameron, adding the team will report on its budget. She expects approximately 30 community members to attend.

Food security is having reliable access to an adequate quantity of affordable, nutritious food and, in Canada, the further north a community is located the more the quality, availability and affordability of food suffer.

Cameron could even see the difference between Brandon and her community, just an hour and a half apart.

"I was shocked," she said about prices and irreparably damaged produce.

In 2017, the hairdresser and now mother of three responded to a job advertisement, which led her to organize cooking classes, work with the school and start up a community garden. That garden has grown to feed 40 to 60 families each growing season. Cameron is now mostly a volunteer, as with the rest of the team.

She said Waywayseecappo Chief Murray Clearsky and council have been very supportive of the team’s work, which includes a variety of workshops — duck preparation, for example, and a meat clinic. 

Clearsky referred The Brandon Sun to councillor Chantel Wilson, saying she has been the most involved.

Wilson said the team does great work and works well together.

"If there’s a project that can be incorporated with their work, we try to work with them. They’re just hard-working individuals. Their effort will go a long way to making our community sustainable as we grow our own food," she said.

Wilson said the community has an unused sea can that could be used to grow fresh produce in the winter, as has been reported out of Nunavut, and she’s brought it up with Cameron.

"And we could help other communities if we are successful. We can help our neighbours do the same."

Cameron said the team has "taken our show on the road many times," travelling to Montreal, Thunder Bay, Garden Hill First Nation, War Lake First Nation, Leaf Rapids, Brandon and White Earth Nation in Minnesota.

Collaboration is important in the food security world, as people share what works and what doesn’t, and build skills. Youth are also included. Brittany Cote, who runs the food bank, has two young sons, Jimmy and Gabe, who are always eager to help out at the garden.

"And they’re just little," Cameron said.

In the early days of the garden, when someone helped themselves to produce from the garden in the middle of the night, some initially called it vandalism.

"But that’s what it’s for. If people have to steal food at night …" she said.

According to Canadian Feed the Children, one of the team’s funders, food insecurity for Indigenous children and adults living on- and off-reserve ranges from 21 per cent to 83 per cent, compared to three per cent to nine per cent for Canadians in general.

Canadian Feed the Children supports revitalizing Indigenous food sovereignty and security, and works with more than two dozen communities. The Northern Manitoba Food, Culture and Community Collaborative, a grouping of communities, advisors and funders, has supported Waywayseecappo with training and education, and a donation for 2020 efforts.

"We have done fundraising, as well. Last year, we raised over $2,000 for our orchard," Cameron said.

The orchard is for Saskatoon berries, raspberries and apples.

The team plants vegetables that can be grown in abundance and preserved in abundance, such as potatoes and corn.

Food Secure Canada states food sovereignty is about how food security can be achieved.

"Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems," according to Food Secure Canada’s website.

Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun