2018 Food Champions

2018 NAN Food Champions standing with their original artworks by Gull Bay artist Kevin Belmore.

From left to right: NAN Community Food Initiative Champion: Eabametoong First Nation, for its successful inception and continued operation of Fort Hope Farm. Lead farmer Rudy Waboose accepted the award on behalf of his community; NAN Adult Food Champion: Sam Hunter of Weenusk First Nation, for his long-time promotion of traditional food practices and land-based youth mentorship; NAN Elder Food Champion: Vina Hendrix of Matachewan First Nation, for her generous sharing of traditional language, culture and history through youth mentorship and community leadership; NAN Youth Food Champion: Tyler Waboose of Eabametoong First Nation, for his extensive work growing, mentoring and coordinating youth with Roots to Harvest in Thunder Bay.

NAN Community Food Initiative Champion – Eabametoong First Nation

Accepted by Rudy Waboose of the Fort Hope Farm

  • Nominated by Stella Waboose, Band Manager, Eabametoong First Nation

“Since 1998, Eabametoong First Nation has been working towards holistic community well-being. One challenge that faces many remote northern communities is the lack of availability of health, culturally appropriate foods.

Since 2012, EFN Health & Social Services maintained a small community garden plot and sold fresh produce to local people once per year. Due to a surge in support from the community and Chief & Council. EFN decided to invest in the garden in a greater way by securing external and internal funding, which allowed us to purchase some start-up equipment and materials, hire employees, explore training programs, and build relationships with education institutions.

In March 2016, EFN began the development of a community farm in earnest, based on the direction and vision of the community, which would come to be named Fort Hope Farm. Just like the people of Eabametoong, the farm has had to be resilient, creative, determined, and innovative as it grew from idea to reality. The lack of a winter road in 2016 meant that the irrigation system was unable to be transported to EFN. Rather than giving up on the season, the farmers and the community worked together to water the crops, with the local fire department using their fire truck hoses for the initial irrigation of the fields and hard-working volunteers keeping the growing crops watered. With the community’s help and support, Fort Hope Farm harvested over 12,000lbs of healthy, fresh produce in 2016.

Today, Fort Hope Farm is in the middle of its second official growing season, guided by the development of a unique blend of Western best practices and Traditional Knowledge that perfectly suits the unique culture and environment of Eabametoong. The farm operates as a social enterprise based on a cooperative business model, where the profits are reinvested back into the farm, resulting in a more prosperous, healthy, and vibrant community. The work of EFN’s farmers into the future will help create food security for Eabametoong First Nation, and contribute to the holistic well-being of the community. Fort Hope Farm is a leader in the North, establishing precedence for successful farming in a way that honours traditional Anishinaabe knowledge and culture by protecting the land and feeding the people good healthy food.”

NAN Youth Food Champion – Tyler Waboose, Eabametoong First Nation

  • Nominated by Erin Beagle, Executive Director of Roots to Harvest

“Tyler has been involved in many different aspects of the food system for the past two and a half years – as a grower, mentor, community kitchen coordinator and teacher. He approaches all of his work with enthusiasm, patience, willingness to learn and teach, and respect for how food intersetcs with the community, the land and culture. Tyler is humble and highly skilled and has introduced food and farming to many young people in Thunder Bay and throughout the region.”

NAN Adult Food Champion – Sam Hunter, Weenusk First Nation

  • Nominated by Luke Hunter, NAN / Weenusk First Nation

“Sam Hunter continues to champion a campaign of promoting wild food, use of traditional methods of healthy eating and living off the land. As Sam puts it …” the best medicine is healthy food, which fixes your body as pills will never do that…” He is also involved in his community, especially the youth, and would take out them out on the land to experience outdoor life and teaching them to prepare country food and the benefits of harvesting food from the land.

Sam is a photographer, film producer and avid outdoorsman. He has co-produced a number of videos and written short articles about healthy eating and the use of wild food as an alternative to high calorie processed foods. He has also done a number of speaking engagements about food security, preserving wild food using traditional methods and teaching canning of wild geese.”

NAN Elder Food Champion – Vina Hendrix, Matachewan First Nation

  • Nominated by Xavier Kataquapit, Attawapiskat First Nation

“I am nominating Elder Vina Hendrix…because she is so vital and such an important influence on her community and many others in Northeastern Ontario. Elder Hendrix has a vast knowledge of her traditional language, culture and the history of her First Nation. She has provided Matachewan First Nation with teachings and instruction regarding Ojibwe language, craft work, the medicines and foods available to the people from the land and connections to ancestors. The leadership has often turned to Elder Hendrix for guidance in dealing with modern day development in the community and in terms of her spiritual support. She has dedicated much of her like to assisting, educating and supporting young people and she has been involved for many years with the Wabun Youth Gathering as an Elder. Her connection and care for the youth of her community has led to a healthier Matachewan First Nation on many levels. I have known Elder Hendrix for 20 years and consider myself very fortunate to call her a friend.”