Historic alliance to address food insecurity in northern Manitoba and Ontario

A helicopter makes an important delivery to a remote northern community.

Photos: Harvest Manitoba, Tracey Willoughby

Northern and isolated communities are feeling the global rise in food prices, especially as regional food security is affected by high transportation costs.

To help bring access to healthy food in northern and isolated communities, a historic alliance has been formed: Wiiche'iwaymagon. Its membership includes tribal councils and other Nutrition North Canada (NNC) Harvesters Support Grant and Community Food Programs Fund recipients in Ontario and Manitoba, food banks and charities and the Arctic Gateway Group. The shared aim is to bring food bank operations to 43 isolated northern communities now, and to more in the future.

Browse the photos below to see how this unique partnership is paving the way towards strengthening food security in the North.

Photo gallery

Innovative solutions are what’s needed to address food insecurity in isolated northern communities. It is through partnerships that these innovations can be discovered and shared.

Recently, a ground-breaking idea came to light which led to an historic alliance. The idea has become Wiiche’iwaymagon, bringing together tribal councils and other Harvesters Support Grant recipients in northern Manitoba and Ontario, food bank agencies and charities including Food Banks Canada, the Breakfast Club of Canada, Second Harvest, Harvest Manitoba, Feed Ontario and the Regional Food Distribution Association in Thunder Bay, and the Arctic Gateway Group, which owns and operates Canada’s only Arctic seaport serviced by rail at the Port of Churchill.

"Today we have found friends, allies amongst the colonists and amongst ourselves who believe as we do, that no one should be hungry in a land of abundance.
We are rejoining our nations across Manitoba and Ontario as brothers and sisters and we are seeking to include our cousins in the north.
Together, we are taking back control and setting ourselves on a path to a place where there will be no hungry babies and no more hungry elders."

- Tracey Willoughby, Director of Mawachintoon Anishnawbe Miijim (M.A.M.), Kiikenomaga Kikenjigewen Employment & Training Services

During the traditional ceremony, the Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Wiiche’iwaymagon members affirming their commitment to work together to strengthen food security in northern Manitoba and Ontario.

During the traditional ceremony, the Memorandum of Understanding was bound by a red ribbon, signifying to the Creator that it is a living document which all parties agree to uphold.

"…Any program delivery in the First Nation will not be successful without addressing the food insecurity issues. Therefore, this collective partnership by joint purchasing between the agreement holders and the regional and national food banks will provide additional food staples that will leverage bulk purchasing."

- Dave Neegan, Executive Director, Kiikenomaga Kikenjigewen Employment & Training Services

The Memorandum of Understanding opens the way for building a northern food banks network across northern Manitoba and Ontario. This network will be supported through the NNC subsidy program which provides a flat-rate subsidy for food banks and charities to transport and deliver food to eligible northern and isolated communities. Members can also access NNC’s Harvesters Support Grant and Community Food Programs Fund for food-related infrastructure and equipment, as well as for local food programs, buying clubs and food distribution networks.

"It is our tradition and culture to share our meat and fish, our gatherings and our medicines. We have never and will never stop this tradition. We share with our families, our elders and with those who cannot provide for themselves. This is who we are and who we will always be."

- Clarence Mason, Asininew Okimawin

The partnership between tribal councils and other Harvesters Support Grant recipients, food banks and charities and the Arctic Gateway Group will help 120,000 residents in 43 eligible isolated and northern communities access food from food banks in Ontario and Manitoba.

"It is the commitment of food bankers to: feed the hungry and serve the most vulnerable of all societies without judgement or reward. Food bankers believe that no one should be hungry in a country as rich as Canada."

- Volker Kromm, Regional Food Distribution Association, Harvest Manitoba President

The Memorandum of Understanding builds a partnership focused on improving the flow of free food bank foods and a low-cost supply network and achieving the market power required for change.

The inclusion of food banks and charities into the NNC subsidy program is helping to address the immediate needs of the most vulnerable residents in northern and isolated communities, while NNC continues to work with communities on long-term innovative solutions to food insecurity in Canada’s North.

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