One of the results of colonization on indigenous people has been that many of our people have moved away from traditions, such as community building, giving thanks, acknowledgement and respect for what has been provided.
It must be remembered that all food and water is alive, and all food and water is medicine that is gifted in the seasonal cycles.
Nourishment includes all aspects of growing, gathering, preparing and handling of food and water. These important teachings are taught and passed on by true leadership; which can be defined as Peace (our inwardness), Power (our perception) and Righteousness (our Walk, what others see). This can also be further defined as, “Walking the Talk.”
In our fast pace lifestyles and programming, traditional mindfulness and original teachings have been forgotten. At typical events, gatherings, socials and conferences, there is usually a spread of carbs and starches (breads, muffins, pastries, pastas etc.) and fast food style ‘foods’. The body converts these foods which contain little if any nutritional foods directly to sugar.
By the afternoon when everyone’s sugar levels have plummeted, people can be seen heavily distracted, not paying attention, eating more and some are even actually nodding off. True nutrition has lost its meaning, priority and value and its physical, mental, spiritual and emotional connections to ‘us’ as communities.
This ultimately is affecting our mental health and can be seen in the rise of addictions. It all leads back to the food that we eat. Today a sea of convenient resources from ‘fast food establishments’, prepackaged pre-prepared massively processed meals (thaw, zap and serve; or just add water) is preferred by the majority; and is relied on to serve our communities and children.
This new dependency is explained away by some as “that is all they know”, or “I don’t have the time.” Unfortunately the result is the rise of diabetes and childhood obesity at epidemic level proportions. We need to stop poisoning our spirit with junk food. Awareness and consciousness of essential life-skills such as nutrition literacy, is what is missing in today’s ‘education systems,’ in many Aboriginal communities, organizations, programs and ultimately with decision makers.
As a way to combat these problems, SOADI has produced a cookbook called “Food is our medicine: making it sacred.” One of the purposes of this cookbook is to address this issue and to show that nutrition and food preparation is not all that complicated and doesn’t have to be time consuming. The intention is for frontline workers and decision makers to serve ‘nutritional excellence’ that is full of spirit to communities through programming, events, socials and meetings.
The goal of the ‘Making it Sacred Cookbook’ is to bring understanding and awareness to the connection and spirit of our food and to walk the talk, making nutrition a priority. Each component is to bring educational elements that are based on the seasons, nutritional information, and preparation advice with budget tips. Plus there is a section included on a formula to make a healthy eating organization, and how to make it work with tips and strategies. It is essential that organizations, frontline workers and decision makers in Aboriginal communities implement ideas and concepts from SOADI’s Walk the Talk Nutrition Policy as guidelines for nutritional excellence into healthy programming.
SOADI’s Walk the Talk Nutrition Policy can be downloaded at www.soadi.ca. Happy Cooking!
Small Steps Make Big Changes:
Some strategies to ensure a clean eating environment:
- Make your building a pop, juice, ‘junk food’ and candy free environment (with signs posted).
- Have some “quick grab” healthy snacks accessible to all; for example a basket of apples in lobby.
- Promote staff potluck lunches, strongly encouraging homemade dishes.
- Avoid fast food chains while eating out and do not bring it in for programs or personal.
- Avoid anything processed; pre-made and prepackaged (high fats/low nutrient ‘foods’).
- Provide a water station in high traffic areas.
- Promote the use of ‘bundles’ to gatherings and events. People bring their own (plate, bowl, cutlery, and cup), this instills being responsible for ourselves.
- At Community potlucks, encourage homemade dishes; “please opt not to bring anything in a package or from fast food establishments.”
- Provide alternative natural sweeteners and dairy for Tea/Herbal and Coffee.
- Keep a positive, cooperative attitude in the centre, kitchen and programs. This helps to manage through the transition.
- Be patient when introducing new food options.
- Get participants involved: Give a feeling of choice instead of restriction. Provide an open forum to choose recipes. Let participants know what is on the menu/agenda. Encourage the growing of your own fruits and vegetables.
- Invite a local SOADI Diabetes Prevention Coordinator (DPC) into community and or centre to provide nutrition literacy.
- When working with caterers and hotels, don’t be afraid to ask for specific menus or dietary needs, if need be supply the recipes. If the caterer is uncooperative, find a new caterer or new venue. Eating healthy does not mean more expensive. If the quote rises significantly due to ‘healthy food’ request, move on if price is not justifiable.
- Get back to basics, “respect” and connect to nature and your food, and know where it comes from.
- Check out great resources: First Nations Health Council, Healthy Food Guidelines, For First Nations Communities; www.fnhc.ca