Children and youth in Yukon First Nations rural communities are set to have access to two meals a day, five days a week thanks to a new initiative launched by the Council of Yukon First nations (CYFN) today. The announcement from Grand Chief Peter Johnston and Executive Director Shadelle Chambers outlined the aims of the new program and how the funding through Jordan’s Principle, approved by Indigenous Services Canada, would be put to use.
The goal of the program is to meet food insecurity across the territory which disproportionally affect First Nations Peoples. The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Brendan Hanley, supported the decision as a way to combat food-based health issues, given that Canada is the only country in the 34-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that does not have a national school food program.
The funds will be used to purchase and ship fresh food into the communities; assist with harvesting traditional foods; pay for cooks; upgrade kitchen equipment and facilities, and to hire two CYFN coordinators to manage the program. Johnston made clear that the program would make sure to consider the important role food plays in First nations culture especially with regards to hunting and gathering of traditional foods.
“The food we eat is linked to our culture, our identity and our overall health, so assisting communities to build food security while revitalizing traditional diets, is vitally important for Yukon First Nations” said Johnston, “we also know that a healthy diet improves concentration and learning. The potential benefits to this program are countless”.
As of today’s announcement, the program has already begun implementation in Ross River and Mayo, and the two coordinators have been hired. The program will work with the rural first communities in the Yukon through participating first nations including Liard First Nation, Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, Vuntut Gwitchin Government, Carcross/Tagish First Nation, Ross River Dene Council, Selkirk First Nation, First Nation of Na-cho Nyäk Dun, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation, Kluane First Nation, White River First Nation; Champagne and Aishihik First Nation, and Teslin Tlingit Council.