Harvest to Share program underway on Manitoulin Island

A new program focusing on Indigenous food sovereignty is underway on Manitoulin Island.

Centre pays butchering costs in exchange for one-third of meat donation

A new program focusing on Indigenous food sovereignty is underway on Manitoulin Island.

The Noojmowin Teg Health Centre near Little Current has launched its Harvest to Share program.

"The initiative is basically to provide clients with the autonomy to choose where they source their food locally," Courtney Kurek, the coordinator of the program said.

"We just want to provide access to our traditional foods for clients and community members to access."

How it works is the centre pays for the entire butchering cost of the harvests of deer or moose.

In exchange, the hunter then provides a donation of one-third of the meat back to the health centre.

"With the meat, the purpose is to use [it] for workshops that we offer every year for the seven First Nations communities [on Manitoulin Island]," Kurek said.

"And also for community events, so if there's a death in the community and they need meat for their community feast then they can contact us and they can access the meat."

Kurek says the inspiration came from the Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre in Sudbury, which has a similar program.

'Just as their ancestors did'

So far, she says hunters have been taking part.

"I think covering the entire butcher fee is a really good incentive because a lot of hunters may not have the funds to take [the meat] to a licensed butcher," she said.

"[But] I think mostly, they just want to help out their own communities as well. So contributing the meat and donating is a great way to give back to their own communities."

Courtney Kurek is the coordinator of the Harvest to Share program. (Supplied/Courtney Kurek)

The centre received a grant to start the program, but Kurek says the centre plans to make it permanent.

"Our intent is to encourage community members to share with one another in their community when an animal is harvested, just as their ancestors did," she said.

"I've spoke to a lot of elders and they always speak about freezers kind of ending that sharing because a lot of families go out and they just fill their own freezers, and not much sharing is happening anymore. So to bring this program to life, is to encourage hunters to share their harvest."

With files from Waubgeshig Rice