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Yukon Indigenous education group gets funds for traditional game kitchen

Four organizations across the north receive funds to improve food security

The Yukon’s member of Parliament Brendan Hanley announced the recipients of the Northern Food Innovation Challenge (NFIC) funding program on Dec. 18. They include the Yukon First Nation Education Directorate (YFNED), Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre in Iqaluit, the Ilisaqsivik Society in Nunavik, Quebec and the Fort Simpson Métis Development Corporation in Northwest Territories.

The four community organizations, with projects aimed at addressing food insecurity in their communities, will receive nearly $3 million in funding in the phase 2 of the challenge.

Launched in 2021, the NFIC provides funding to support “innovative, community-led projects for local and Indigenous food production systems to help improve food security in Canada’s territories,” it’s noted in a statement.

The funding will help the organizations to scale up their projects and continue building on earlier progress, the announcement states.

Hanley said food security is an important issue to many people in the territory and across the North, especially in these hard economic times.

“It is important not just for those who are directly affected by food insecurity, but also for those who are working hard to find solutions to a very broad and challenging issue,” he said. “We believe that through close partnership, we can further develop and implement solutions to addressing food security and these solutions are often led by the communities that deal with these realities every day because they understand best what’s needed.”

He said the objective of the fund is to support innovative community-led projects for local and Indigenous food production as a way of improving local food security.

Hanley said that it wasn’t enough to just support local ideas with funding, explaining that part of the program is to put community organizations in touch with people across the North who have the knowledge that can benefit northern and Indigenous-led solutions to strengthening food security and to work with them to refine their ideas.

“In other words, to take a good idea to the next level,” he said. “This is an opportunity for these organizations running the projects to scale up the projects and continue to build local solutions to food security in their communities.”

The Yukon First Nation Education Directorate will receive $845,000.

Hanley said the organization is moving towards a goal of creating a centralized traditional kitchen facility in Whitehorse to support the processing and storage of game in an urban setting.

“Additionally, this project will develop a traditional knowledge curriculum enabling knowledge sharing and training on First Nation food processing,” he said. “They’re also creating an easily reproduced design of a fully certified First Nation food kitchen.”

The Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre in Iqaluit will receive $400,000 to purchase equipment to increase capacity for food processing and add retail space for local hunters to share country food.

Through $1 million in funding, the Ilisaqsivik Society in Nunavik will hire additional instructors with the ability to teach youth the skills needed to hunt and harvest food for their families.

The Fort Simpson Métis Development Corporation in the N.W.T. will use the $705, 500 it receives to move forward with site preparations and the purchase of equipment for a bison meat processing facility.

“Each of these projects is taking a unique approach to improving the food security of their respective communities, channeling local innovation and ingenuity to get the job done. So we’re really looking forward to continuing to work with and support these four organizations,” Hanley said during the announcement.

YFNED executive director Melanie Bennett said that food is part of the community and the culture of Yukon First Nations.

“I know for a fact, being an educator, that without food, kids can’t learn. They can’t learn on an empty stomach. So, food security is a problem for so many of our families,” she said. “By feeding our children and supporting the families, this project has the ability to create transformative positive change within the territory.”

She said YFNED has been distributing holiday food hampers to families in need, adding that more 1,500 hampers have been given out to families with Indigenous children in the territory.

“That means three large boxes are filled with your standard holiday meal and fixings. And I’ve had an entire team of staff that have been doing that over a powerhouse of four days. It’s all done through our nutrition program and I’m really excited at the fact that we’re doing this media release with all this noise happening in the kitchen behind us because right now those cooks are preparing 1,578 meals that will leave the kitchen today.”

As part of the nutrition program, Bennett said they have more than 20 cooks that are operating out of schools as well as in their own kitchen. She added that with the funding, YFNED will be able to improve its offerings.

She explained that YFNED has plans for a building project which will serve as a space for learning and providing meal services.

The preliminary design of the building on a poster display at the venue includes functional areas for refrigeration and freezing of foods, dry storage, meat processing, meal preparation, cleaning of reusable food packaging and transport materials, staff rooms, as well as a separate instructional kitchen and learning space. According to the design, outdoor spaces are included for gathering and knowledge-sharing, as well as outdoor gardening.

“We are working with the design team of engineers, architects and kitchen specialists to envision a better way of not just feeding all of our Indigenous kids, but creating a space that can be used to educate, gather and come together with local food,” she said. “This includes processing harvested meat, which is a resource meant to be shared, both in consuming but also in learning. And from our elders and knowledge holders and our youth. We make it a point that all of our work is guided by our knowledge holders.”

When asked the estimated costs of the project, timelines and if a location has been secured, she said there’s not a specific number on the cost, but noted officials are aiming to have the project completed by 2025. She said work is underway to find a location.

The organization used phase 1 of the funding program to create a feasibility study, functional plan and conceptual layout for the kitchen facility. In phase 2, the funding will go towards completion of the architectural design and detailed drawings, including building designs for innovative teaching components and net-zero building construction.

Contact Patrick Egwu at

Patrick Egwu

About the Author: Patrick Egwu

I’m one of the newest additions at Yukon News where I have been writing about a range of issues — politics, sports, health, environment and other developments in the territory.
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