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Indigenous program strengthens long-term rural food supply

May 15, 2024 at 10:56 am  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

Indigenous communities, organizations and businesses throughout the province are working to strengthen local food systems to ensure a more sustainable and affordable food supply for people in rural and remote areas.

“It is vitally important that we continue to work with and listen to Indigenous partners so we can grow and maintain traditional, local food systems, which are an important aspect of community health and wellness,” said Pam Alexis, Minister of Agriculture and Food. “The projects are helping increase production and putting more control of how food is grown and distributed into the hands of Indigenous communities.”

Launched in July 2023, the Indigenous Food Security and Sovereignty Program is supporting more than 60 projects ranging from community food security to climate-change adaptation to the revitalization of traditional food production.

One of the projects involves The Farmhouse Butchery, operated by MGD Farms, which is upgrading equipment and access to its farm and store so more people can visit the Westbridge-based family business, enjoy the products and learn about the traditional ways of harvesting.

“This new funding has been a game-changer helping us improve our environmental and commercial sustainability,” said Dean Maynard, owner, MGD Farms. “Our old road is now safe for our customers and employees, especially during the winter months, and our composting system has been modernized as we look to bring in a new style of butchering to improve our waste management.”

People living in the Kitwanga and Skeena region will also benefit as Indigenous food sovereignty and trades-training initiative named Tea Creek grows and distributes Indigenous plants and seeds to support more family and community-based gardens.

“Food sovereignty isn’t just about food, it’s about the rights to produce food, the rights and access to land, values, our cultural teachers, our cultural knowledge, the intergenerational support, the cultural safety – that’s all part of Indigenous food sovereignty,” said Jacob Beaton, owner, Tea Creek. “It’s a complicated thing which takes a lot of effort, a lot of time and a lot of money to get something going and do it properly. And that’s why the support of the Indigenous Food Sovereignty Funding is important. We need as many partners as possible to continue the success of Tea Creek.”

On Vancouver Island, the Malahat Nation is developing plans to support more opportunities for Indigenous food harvesting and food-processing infrastructure in its communities.

“The NRT Indigenous Food Security and Sovereignty Fund has facilitated an amazing opportunity to create a space for Malahat Nation departments to come together and collaborate on essential food-sovereignty visioning with the community,” said Melissa Tokarek, director of lands and environment, Malahat Nation. “We have sat with Elders sharing stories on Indigenous food systems, met with staff to identify existing gaps in our services, and look forward to connecting with Malahat members to ensure the food sovereignty vision aligns with their priorities.”

The next round of funding is available for applications on May 17, 2024.

“Empowering robust, sustainable food production in B.C. means supporting Indigenous knowledge and priorities for food systems on land and water,” said Walter Schneider, chief executive officer, New Relationship Trust (NRT). “NRT is pleased to work alongside Indigenous food producers as they build community resilience and food security, strengthen local economies and contribute to a thriving agricultural sector in harmony with Indigenous values and sovereignty.”

Increasing Indigenous participation in B.C.’s agricultural and food economy is a key part of the B.C. government’s reconciliation commitments through the implementation of B.C.’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. The Indigenous Food Security and Sovereignty Program is being delivered by the New Relationship Trust, an independent non-profit group dedicated to empowering First Nations communities.

Quick Facts:

  • The Indigenous Food Security and Sovereignty Program is providing $30 million over three years.
  • Beginning May 17, 2024, applications for the second round of funding will be available.

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