Saskatoon Tribal Council, Sask. Polytechnic collaborating to tackle food insecurity

A memorandum of understanding has been signed between the Saskatoon Tribal Council and Saskatchewan Polytechnic which the organizations say will 'enhance training and applied research for Indigenous food sovereignty.'

Children accounted for 46% of people who received food hampers from Lac La Ronge Food Bank in July

Trudy Connor, secretary of the Lac La Ronge Food Bank board, said the food bank consists of about 80 volunteers who prepare 75 food hampers a week in addition to shopping for food, packaging it and tending to the food bank's garden. (Lac La Ronge Food Bank/Facebook)

The Saskatoon Tribal Council and Saskatchewan Polytechnic have signed a memorandum of understanding which the organizations said will "enhance training and applied research for Indigenous food sovereignty."

The five-year agreement sets the framework for collaboration on food security in Indigenous communities throughout the province, and research on how to best make use of available land. 

"If there's one thing that First Nations have, it's land," said Tribal Chief Felix Thomas. 

While there is land, some parts of the province where predominantly Indigenous communities reside might not have ideal conditions for agriculture and horticulture, he added. If there is a lack of access to healthy and nutritious food, then food security might lessen for families and communities. 

A household is considered food insecure when there is a barrier to accessing healthy, nutritious meals, such as money constraints. When a household is food insecure, its members might opt for the cheapest option available, but not necessarily the most healthy. 

"The further north you go, the more of an impact you can make," Thomas said of the agreement. 

For the Lac La Ronge Food Bank, which operates its own garden, the area is described as a lot of "rocks, trees and water." 

"We hope for healthy non-perishables but we don't even aspire to go mostly fresh," said Trudy Connor, secretary of the board for the food bank. "Fresher [foods] are an appreciated bonus, I would say."

The garden grows potatoes, carrots and squash, among other produce. (Lac La Ronge Food Bank/Facebook)

The food bank, located in La Ronge, Sask., 334 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon, provided 174 households with food hampers in July from La Ronge and surrounding communities.

Connor said 46 per cent of the food bank's 730 clients were children. 

The food bank relies on a helping hand from about 80 volunteers. Connor and others coordinate to shop for food, package it, box it and tend to a plot of land where the food bank gardens its own produce. 

"It's not healthy soil — but it's still soil, and it still grows a few things," Connor said. 

The food bank does get help from community members as well, such as elders who go berry picking.

When it comes to wild meat donations, it's simpler for the food bank to just purchase meat, Connor said. Wild meat has to be prepared by a certified butcher, which creates an additional barrier for the food bank.