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Food builds bridge to Indigenous communities


As a part of its historic and ongoing commitment to strengthening existing partnerships – and building new ones – with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, OPSEU is giving $70,000 to the Northern Food Justice Markets initiative.

The program is an alternative food distribution model for Ontario’s north, selling high-quality vegetables at affordable prices. It is led by Indigenous community leaders, while the Indigenous Food Systems Secretariat provides equity and evaluations consulting. The markets harness FoodShare Toronto’s power as a produce distribution hub to buy wholesale at the Ontario Food Terminal and from small Ontario farms.

Access to fresh, affordable vegetables and fruits has transformed the lives of many in northern Ontario Indigenous communities. The lower food prices mean residents can eat fresh produce again and improve their health and well-being.

“It’s Indigenous people who identified the need. It’s Indigenous people who know best how to implement a program geared towards Indigenous people. And it’s Indigenous people who will assure the continued success of this project,” said Krista Maracle, chair of OPSEU’s Indigenous Circle. “It’s key that Indigenous people continue to ensure the implementation of the Good Food Market.

“The Good Food Market empowers them to provide healthy and affordable food for their own communities,” added Maracle. “This must not be perceived as just another handout.”

The project began in 2011, when the True North Community Co-operative asked FoodShare to distribute fresh produce to Fort Albany. Within a year, the markets were present in seven other communities, including Attawapiskat.

Despite the success, some projects were suspended in 2014. OPSEU members’ generosity will be instrumental in allowing the Northern Food Justice Markets program to resume.

Maracle said the gesture shows OPSEU is serious about implementing a resolution on Attawapiskat, passed at its 2016 Convention. “It will help preserve and strengthen our union’s long-term relationships with Indigenous communities.”