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ITK lays out food security strategy for Inuit

Recognizing airlines being essential to Inuit communities part of identified actions
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President Natan Obed says the high rate of food insecurity for Inuit in Canada is “unacceptable.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick file photo

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) has identified steps it will take through its Inuit Nunangat Food Security Strategy to build sustainable food systems in Inuit Nunangat.

“The high rate of food insecurity for Inuit in Canada is unacceptable,” said Natan Obed, president of ITK, during a July 12 news conference in Ottawa. “The Inuit Nunangat Food Security Strategy contains a series of transformative actions that, when undertaken concurrently, will have a significant impact on this terrible crisis. It identifies ways to support the development of an Inuit Nunangat food system approach that supports Inuit well-being and reflects out realities, priorities and way of life.”

Five priority areas were outlined: research and advocacy, food systems and well-being; legislation and policy; programs and services; as well as knowledge and skills.

The stated actions are as follows:

Increasing Inuit self-determination over the Inuit Nunangat food system:

-Developing Inuit-led solutions using a distinctions-based Inuit Nunangat policy lens

-Value the Inuit country food harvesting economy and wildlife management decision-masking

-Ensure research and evaluation around food systems and security is based on Inuit priorities and leadership

Reduce Inuit poverty and implement cost of living measures:

-Assess the adequacy of social assistance programs and create poverty reduction initiatives

-Address high cost of living and food in Inuit Nunangat with actions helping foster economic self-reliance

Providing supports for families and children, targeting most vulnerable:

-Improve childhood education and programming through school food programs

-Identify the most vulnerable and create equitable access to nutritious food for all Inuit

-Address short- and long-term impacts of chronic food insecurity on Inuit

Invest in food security programs and interventions:

-Explore local food production options aligned with Inuit needs and values

-Provide direct nutrition assistance with proven benefits for vulnerable Inuit families

-Build and learn from initiatives that have a positive impact on Inuit food purchasing power

-Design effective policy initiatives, food security programs and interventions with measurable outcomes

Support harvesting and sharing systems:

-Support local and regional food production and distribution networks

-Ensure active participation within the food system is a viable livelihood

-Invest in program models that develop Inuit harvesting knowledge and skills

Address deficits in Inuit food system infrastructure:

-Address precarious food supply chains influenced by climate change

-Invest in local food storage and processing facilities to improve local food production and emergency food relief efforts

-Recognize Northern air services are essential to Inuit food supply chains

The release of the food strategy earned praise from leaders within Nunavut.

“For Nunavut Inuit, harvesting, processing and consumption of country foods is deeply linked to community ethics and Inuit identity,” said Aluki Kotierk, president of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated. “The maintenance and building up of our kinship relationships and with other community members is a necessary and integral part of Inuit culture.

“We must make a shift from thinking about food security to food sovereignty. Food sovereignty captures the policy approaches required to address the underlying issues impacting Inuit and our ability to respond to our own needs for healthy, culturally appropriate and customary food. It means empowering Inuit to feed our own communities.”

The federal government also remarked on the importance of the strategy.

“No person should have to worry about where their next meal will come from. I recognize that the issue of food security has been a longstanding priority for Inuit, and I am committed to working with (ITK) and my federal colleagues to best support ITK in implementing their own solutions for food security in Inuit Nunangat,” said Marc Miller, minister for Indigenous Services.