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Nutrition and Country Foods

Healthy Meals and Lifestyles – As part of our focus on nutrition, Ilisaqsivik runs the Healthy Meals and Lifestyles program, which provides information about nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices to expecting and new mothers and their young children six days a week (every day except Sunday).  This program supports pregnant and breastfeeding women and adoptive mothers until their children reach 24 months of age.  This program also feeds the children age 2 –6 years that accompany their mothers.  In addition, childcare is provided for children up to age six, which frees mothers to fully participate in the activities.

Country Foods – Country foods are an extremely important source of nutrition for Canadian Inuit communities, and they play a significant role in cultural identity, community building, and mental health and wellness.  Before Clyde River became a settled community in the 1950s and 60s, Inuit families relied on the land and on their hunting skills, following animals seasonally to different campsites where food was most plentiful.  The sharing of country food within extended kin and family networks formed the basis of Inuit social organization.  All household members were involved in food gathering and sharing in some way, whether hunting, butchering, cleaning skins, preparing tools, or preparing or storing foods for times of future scarcity.

Since Inuit families settled permanently in Clyde River, many things have changed, but country food remains central to community and family life.  Families still share country food in extended family networks.  Country food is important for household food security, since it is more nutritious and less expensive than store bought food.  Still, not all households have regular access to country food, since maintaining an active hunter requires purchasing and maintaining transportation equipment, such as snowmobiles, boats, and ATVs, and purchasing guns and ammunition.  Not all households have the time, money, and skill required to hunt on a regular basis.

Ilisaqsivik recognizes the importance of country foods for nutrition, identity, wellness, and community building.  We hire hunters throughout the year to harvest country foods, which we serve in our programs for new and expecting mothers, children, and elders. We also provide country foods for community feasts and celebrations.  Many of our land-based programs, such as our Ataata-Irniq program, incorporate the transmission of hunting skills to younger generations.  Supporting hunters also gives us a way to engage fathers in some of our children’s programming, and to develop mentorship relationships between male role models and youth.

For more information about healthy food in Nunavut, check out the Nunavut Food Guide, developed by the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Health and Social Services.