SIOUX LOOKOUT – Thirty-one Far North First Nation communities have been invited to Frenchmen’s Head on April 30th and May 1st, 2015, to find solutions to the Food‐Cost crisis.
Frenchmen’s Head is a Lac Seul First Nation community 40 kilometres west of Sioux Lookout. Chiefs and Economic Development Officers from the 31 Far North communities have been engaged to participate in a First Nations‐Municipal Community Economic Development Initiative to study the feasibility of a Regional Food Distribution Centre to be located at the Sioux Lookout Municipal Airport.
MNP LLP have been contracted to work collaboratively with the communities to complete a feasibility study for the construction of a new facility with the intention of distributing fresh foods and consumer goods. MNP and the Project Coordinator, Noah Chapman, just returned from a Far North visit after conducting consumer research. The theme that has resonated from the discussions and community visits is “Breaking Down Barriers‐Building New Economies”.
The First Nation communities in the Far North are representative of a thriving and persevering Nation. Over many years now; the communities have experienced high levels of diabetes and heart related diseases, this can be attributed to unhealthy food diet and unavailability of fresh foods ad limited knowledge of western stable food diets. Still today; one of the gaping problems is the availability of fresh foods and lower cost foods in the communities.
Noah Chapman, Project Coordinator for the Regional Distribution Centre project shared, “As a full‐time resident of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (formerly Big Trout Lake First Nation), I can vouch that food prices in the Far North are high; this cost is derived from a variety of things such as supplier cost, trucking costs and airfreight costs. I believe the Regional Distribution Centre strategy is one of many efforts that will help to address the high cost of fresh foods, combat the high levels of diabetes and heart related diseases in the Far North and bring more opportunities for the First Nation communities in the long term”.
The Regional Distribution Centre (RDC) concept to supply affordable food and consumer goods in the Far North started with the communities of Lac Seul First Nation, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First
Nation (KI, formerly Big Trout Lake) and the Municipality of Sioux Lookout when they were invited to participate in a First Nations‐Municipal Community Economic Development Initiative (CEDI) pilot project, back in November 2013.
Chief Clifford Bull of Lac Seul First Nation said, “Recently my older brother, a former Chief of the Lac Seul First Nation, had one of his legs amputated due to complications related to diabetes. As I visited him in the hospital he said to me, ‘Clifford, we have to do something to change the diet and improve the health of our people’. Lac Seul is very excited to be part of this process of looking at how we can get better quality food, at reasonable prices to our brothers and sisters and relatives in the North. We are proud of our partnership with both KI and the Municipality of Sioux Lookout and look forward to being part of impacting the lives of many.”
The three communities have spent the last year developing a proposal together exploring the possibility of a joint regional food distribution centre to be based at the Sioux Lookout airport that would serve as a central distribution point for affordable, accessible, local fresh foods and consumer goods with an emphasis on serving remote, northwestern Ontario communities.
Sioux Lookout’s Mayor Lawrance expressed it was a privilege for Sioux Lookout to be a partner in working to find a solution to the Food‐Cost Crisis in the Far North. He went on to say, “The basic principle of good governance is good relationships and the most significant part of this project is how we are working together for the well‐being of our entire region”.
This First Nation‐Municipal collaboration to address food security together in the North is unique initiative that is being held up as a model for the rest of Canada through CEDI, which is a joint initiative of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and Cando (Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers), funded by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.