Ontario Trillium Fund Grant builds resiliency through food security at Pikangikum First Nation

From Pikangikum
Press release

Last year, the Pikangikum First Nation received a year-long $147,600 Resilient Communities Fund grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) and since then, has been working to rebuild and recover from impacts of COVID-19 by hiring a Food Security Project Manager and Coordinator to align cross-organizational supports to facilitate access, delivery, and distribution of food donations.

“The Ontario Trillium Foundation’s grant for Pikangikum extends beyond financial aid—it’s an investment in First Nations children, Elders, and their way of life, providing access to affordable and healthy foods on First Nations,” said Sol Mamakwa, MPP for Kiiwetinoong. “As we eagerly await the unfolding of this project—especially in the face of challenges to COVID-19 recovery in the North — I congratulate the Trillium Foundation’s support of Pikangikum’s food resiliency and nationhood.”

Increasing food access for Pikangikum First Nation is an important step in reducing socio-economic gaps and improving overall outcomes for our community.

“I am very excited about this project and the progress we have made so far,” said Trevor Keeper, Food Security Project Manager. “I really hope we can keep it going. The many aspects of the food security program are so great for the community. The food bank will help community members when times are tough and a little extra is needed.”

Community member and former Head of Human Resources Kenneth Strang also echoed the need for this project to create reliable access to food for Pikangikum First Nation: “This food security project is great because it provides needed supplies to families that struggle due to the high costs of living in the North.”

This project will also see complimentary food security programming implemented, beginning with a Traditional Food Harvesting/Preparation Program where community youth will accompany during the fall and spring hunts. Alongside gaining essential food harvesting and preparation skills, traditional knowledge will be imparted to instill cultural significance and pride. A portion of food from each session will be donated to help ensure traditional, fresh, and healthy food is available at the food bank.

“The Youth element of the program is great. We have purchased equipment and hired Elders, hunters and gatherers to teach the Youth skills such as hunting and fishing to start,” said Barry Peters, who was instrumental during initial program development. “This traditional harvesting work will benefit not only the Youth by teaching them to use the land, but will also benefit band members and Elders by the gifts they receive from the harvests of the Youth.”

“This project is also so beneficial to the Youth because the programs provides cultural teachings and activities for them, helping them learn from their Elders and other land users,” Strang said. “With the Youth learning to harvest from the Elders, hunters, and gatherers off their lands, they will acquire traditional knowledge and skills.

The Youth will learn about traditional nutrients, further to this they will learn traditional practices.”

With a foundation for food security established, we are already looking ahead to expand and enhance this project by establishing fridge and freezer capacity, outdoor growing space, and working to increase the amount and variety of food donations received. Other aspects we are working on to improve food security include: a smoker, greenhouse, and cooking classes.

With OTF support, Pikangikum has been able to enhance human capacity for cross-organizational coordination to rebuild and improve resilience by meeting food security demand with on-reserve programming, while providing the foundation necessary to achieve our mission for community prosperity, wellness, and pride.

The Ontario Trillium Foundation’s (OTF) mission is to build healthy and vibrant communities across Ontario. As an agency of the Government of Ontario, and one of Canada’s leading granting foundations, last year, OTF invested over $110M into 1,022 community projects and partnerships. Visit otf.ca to learn more.