Finding solutions to strengthen food security in Baffin Island communities was the focus of a conference in Iqaluit this week.
Representatives from different organizations in the Qikiqtani region shared their ideas and challenges during the three-day meeting, organized by the Qikiqtani Business Development Corporation (QBDC).
The purpose of the meeting was to bring together the 13 communities of the region and see how they could develop and strengthen their food self-sufficiency. Representatives of hunter and trapper associations, as well as young people and elders had the chance to share their experiences.
Sheldon Nimchuk, director of project management for the QBDC, said there are several challenges to food sovereignty in the region, including communities struggling to maintain and operate community freezers.
The price of fuel is also a limitation for hunters in some communities for hunters, he said adding that the corporation plans to collaborate with communities on finding solutions.
"We hope that it is really community driven as much as it's possible," Nimchuk said, "and then we are going to take that and try to build the feasibility and business plan."
The QBDC was one of nine projects to receive funding from the first phase of the Northern Food Innovation Challenge —a program that funds community-led projects focused in local and Indigenous food production to help improve food security in Canada's territories.
"This roundtable came about as a means of bringing community members in and having an open dialogue in terms of what are the challenges, but more importantly, what are their future solutions," Nimchuk said.
"After this roundtable, it's the start of further engagement with the communities."
The QBDC hopes to be able to invest in community harvesting infrastructure, such as storage facilities and food cutting and packaging plants.
"Our goal is to find a viable model that allows us to move forward, develop facilities and support harvesting efforts," Nimchuk said.
The conference also looked to get community input on small-scale food processing in communities, as well as have group discussions on local harvesting challenges and opportunities.
There were also food demonstrations, like hands-on fish smoking and canning sessions and a discussion on inshore fisheries.
The organizers said the event featured food "that is reflective of the seafood available in the Qikiqtani region, including sea cucumbers, shrimp, turbot and scallops."
Michael Doyle, a consultant for Arctic Fresh, presented an Arctic Fresh project from an Inuit-owned grocery company based out of Igloolik, Nunavut. The project is focused in bringing processing systems into communities. It's called "healthy hubs."
Doyle said the project has the potential to bring greenhouses to communities, so they can grow berries, vegetables and leafy greens.
"Community owned, community driven is how we see it," he said, adding the organization is working to incorporate solar and wind clean energy.