A researcher from Ontario says she's studying food security in the North up close and personal.

Children berry picking Inuvik

Students regularly go fishing, hunting and berry picking. (submitted by Tiff-Annie Kenny)

Tiff-Annie Kenny, a PhD student at the University of Ottawa, has started a traditional foods program in Inuvik. She says she didn't want to analyze facts and figures from afar.

"I thought it was important to get a sense of place and to help people in the North," Kenny says. 

"Because understanding issues based on data alone is a little bit incomplete."

So Kenny left the spreadsheets behind and flew to Inuvik to help local elders design a country food program at Inuvik's East Three School.

As part of the program, students in all grades are taught how to harvest and cook traditional foods.

The students regularly go fishing, hunting and berry picking. They also cut up meat and cook it for elders in the community.

Inuvik students traditional food

Students cut up the meat and cook it for elders in the community. (Tiff-Annie Kennedy)

Kenny says she used data from the Inuit Health Survey, done by McGill's Centre for Indigenous Peoples' Nutrition and Environment in 2007-2008, to help design the program, along with input from Inuit stakeholders.

Aboriginal student Paul O'Connor cooked with caribou and reindeer for the first time.

"It's a step up from pre-cut up meats from the store," he says.

Tiff-Annie Kenny

'Understanding issues based on data alone is a little bit incomplete,' says PhD student Tiff-Annie Kenny. (CBC)

Kenny says she got her hands dirty — and clean — helping design the program.

"Working with elders, they talked about how soft people's hands would get from working a lot with traditional foods. Just like the bloods and the oils, and that was something that I got to benefit from," she says.

"So I got dirty hands, but also clean, soft hands."

Kenny is back in Ottawa now, but says she hopes to return to Inuvik in the spring to continue working on the traditional foods program.