OTTAWA, June 20, 2012 /CNW/ - June 21 is not just the Summer Solstice, it's also known as Aboriginal Day. It's a holiday for most First Nations across Canada. It's a day for celebrating Aboriginal cultures, recognizing their contributions. It's about barbecues, community feasts, and family meals. But it's also a day to remember the less fortunate.
More than half (54.2%) of all households on First Nations, on-reserves and northern communities, reported experiencing food insecurity. 14% of these same households said they experienced "severe food insecurity."
By comparison, statistics for all Canadians in 2004 excluding those living on Crown lands and First Nations reserves indicated that 9.2% were "food insecure" and 2.9% were "severely food insecure." (Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion, 2007)
One in six First Nations adults said they struggled throughout the year to meet basic requirements to feed themselves.
This is only some of the information contained in the recently published National Report of the First Nations Regional Health Survey (RHS) covering the years 2008 to 2010.
Government studies identify the high cost food transportation to northern communities as a cause for higher food prices on the shelves. These higher prices are one factor adding to food insecurity in the north. Other studies point to other factors, such as the high cost of equipment, fuel and supplies for hunters, trappers and fishers. These make it more difficult for some northerners to access traditional food sources on lands and waters.
Research points to higher unemployment and lower incomes as factors contributing to food insecurity. Some studies show that among First Nations adults income and financial insecurity are significant factors in food insecurity.
"The data we collected shows that food insecurity on First Nations reserves and in northern communities is a real and present problem," says Jane Gray. She's the National Projects Manager of the RHS.
"Poverty is one factor, likely a major factor, but so is lack of access to traditional sources of food. We should remember where our food comes from when we get together to celebrate on days like this."