Carly Donaldson

The Context of Country Food: Understanding Aboriginal food security in the Canadian Arctic 

By Carly Donaldson
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In May 2010, Nutrition North Canada (NNC) was announced by the federal government as a replacement to the Food Mail program.  NNC is a policy meant to address food security issues in the Arctic and it includes official recognition of country food.  So far the program has been met with criticism since it has not truly addressed the needs of Northerners, particularly the Inuit, Métis, and First Nations populations.

There are four key dimensions to food security—availability, accessibility, acceptability and adequacy—and each of these needs must be fulfilled in order for Canadians to be truly food secure.  However, the concept of food security is additionally complicated as it applies to Canada’s Inuit, Métis and First Nations living the Arctic, particularly with regard to how country food is related to acceptability and adequacy.

This critical review of academic literature demonstrates why genuine comprehension of the unique role of traditional food is essential for understanding the complexities of Arctic food security in Canada.  Two important themes — health and culture — emerge as factors that are directly affected by food security, but could be improved if country food were given proper consideration in government policy.

Unfortunately, the results of the NNC program, so far, demonstrate that the Canadian federal government’s understanding of the importance of country food is short-sighted and disconnected from the body of academic literature that exists surrounding Indigenous food security.

Country food, food security, Canadian Arctic, Nutrition North Canada

Carly Donaldson is a student in the Masters program in Canadian Studies at Carleton University.  She completed her BA at the University of Guelph, with a major in History and a minor in French Literature.  During her undergraduate degree, her research interests were varied and she wrote papers about Joey Smallwood’s political career, the role of forests in Canadian identity, and the “agrarian myth”.  At the graduate level, she has completed research papers about agricultural heritage and the teaching of historical consciousness.  She admits that prior to taking the Capstone Seminar in Advanced Research, she had very limited understanding of food security, and no academic knowledge of the Canadian Arctic.  Her contribution to the Capstone Seminar Series Journal was inspired by the replica of the Wildcat Café in the Canadian Museum of Civilization and it represents her first attempt at understanding life in the Canadian North.  She hopes to continue her research in this area and plans to write a paper for another course about the current federal government’s approach to Arctic sovereignty.

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