Food talks in town

A roundtable discussing food insecurity in the North brought government and organizations together
Elaine Anselmi
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, March 14, 2015
One of three roundtables titled Food Insecurity in Northern Canada came to town last week, fostering a discussion on the important topic that affects everyone. 
The series of roundtables are hosted by the Public Policy Forum, a non-government organization with a mandate to improve public policy across the country by acting as a bridge between various levels of government and NGOs.
The first roundtable was held on Wednesday, in Yellowknife, which will be followed by one next week in Iqaluit and then Ottawa. Once the three roundtables have wrapped up, the forum will produce a report on the different perspectives on food insecurity.
"We know how much individual and community health are interdependent," said Gilmour.
"There is certainly a strong link between harvesting country food and food security and we know that poverty is a compounding factor. This isn't news, in the sense that these are known."
Until all three roundtables have been hosted, Gilmour said no specifics on the conversation at the meetings would be given - as per the forum structure, contributors engage freely without direct attribution.
In Yellowknife, Gilmour said approximately 15 people were at the table. Participants were federal government, GNWT, local organizations including The Centre for Northern Families and NWT Senior's Society, and national organizations including as Food Banks Canada.
"We're there to listen," Gilmour said.
"By convening a diverse group and listening carefully, then we feel much more able to compose an accurate report of what strategies to combat food insecurity seem to be working and where there may be space for greater alignment."
The roundtable was held in conjunction with the Department of Health and Social Service's Weaving our Wisdom conference, taking advantage of the already-planned gathering of various people, said Dr. Andre Corriveau, chief public health officer.
"One of the important ways to stay healthy is having good, healthy food," said Corriveau.
"Access to healthy food is a challenge in the North and parts of the country where cost is a barrier for people in terms of healthy foods."
One of the topics of discussion was self-sustainability and producing more within the territory, rather than trucking it up - though Corriveau said there wasn't one single focus discussed within the issue.
"It was about having a combination of initiatives that would over time diminish food insecurity in the North," said Corriveau.
"I think they hopefully will crystallize the Northern voices around this issue and provide some suggestions about what are the best ways to go forward to address the issue in a more sustainable way."
To speak on how food issues relate to older adults, Barb Hood, executive director of the NWT Senior's Society took part in the roundtable.
"It is our chief priority and our strategic plan, tackling issues around cost of living which do include food security and the cost of food throughout the territory," said Hood.
"It has been our chief priority through the last few years."
Going into the roundtable, Hood said her hope was to discuss supports for those who are no longer working, such as seniors.
"We know poverty is quite prevalent with people on fixed incomes," said Hood.
"They're not necessarily able to purchase food that is nutritious and good."
Coming out of the roundtable, Hood hoped the report that would follow would strongly reflect the territory's voices and concerns.
Hood said, "Nothing is attributed to individuals but the voices of people in the Northwest Territories will be reflected in the report and I feel confident that the people at the table did contribute on many levels."