Through home gardens, family cooking, or cross-country skiing, more opportunities for healthy living are coming to the smaller communities of the region.
With IMAGINE Community Grant funding from Northern Health, three local health initiatives are kickstarting this year in Fraser Lake, Nadleh Whut’en, Saik’uz First Nation, Takla Lake First Nation, and Yekooche First Nation.
Healthy family cooking – Saik’uz, Takla Lake, and Yekooche First Nations
At Saik’uz, Takla Lake, and Yekooche, Carrier Sekani Family Services will be organizing Families Cooking Together as part of its Canadian Prenatal Nutrition Program this September.
During weekly sessions over four weeks, the program looks to involve all members of a family — from pre/post-natal mother and kids to elders — in preparing healthy meals and snacks together, said program coordinator Erin Smedley.
“One of our struggles is getting our children to try different things,” she said.
By providing all supplies and ingredients to participating families, the program would also overcome one of the barriers to healthy eating for remote communities such as Takla Lake and Yekooche — access to fresh fruits and vegetables, Smedley explained.
The sessions, supported by community nurses, include educating participants in preventive measures for diet-linked illnesses, and are an extension of the organization’s current monthly community kitchen.
Ingredients used and food preparation methods covered would adapt according to seasons — such as using traditional foods and fruit canning in the fall.
Community cross-country skiing – Fraser Lake
In Fraser Lake, the funding will go towards starting a community cross-country skiing program organized by its village office, to come next winter.
Skiing equipment, to be stored in the community’s Par 3 Sports In Motion store, will be available for the public for rental, explained the village’s CAO Rod Holland.
Track setters were also purchased to allow volunteers with snowmobiles to lay ski tracks near the community.
“We want to reinvigorate the sport in Fraser Lake,” Holland said. “The idea of this program is to make it very reasonable for people to try it.”
A local competitive cross-country skier reintroduced the sport in recent years when he started setting trails in the community, attracting interest from other residents, Holland added.
The village hopes to incorporate cross-country skiing into high school next year, eventually providing the Jackrabbit youth development program in the future.
“Winter is such a significant event in this part of the country,” he said. “It’s important for people to have activity to keep themselves busy.”
Home gardening – Nadleh Whut’en
In Nadleh Whut’en, the community’s health department initiated its 2 Thumbs Up program in March to encourage at-home gardening.
Hosted at its community hall, the program so far involved first planting seeds of various vegetables — including kale, lettuce, broccoli, and zucchini — into pots, and then transferring to boxes built by local volunteers, explained program organizer Lisa Ketlo.
The program aims to encourage more healthy eating in the community, as well as lower food costs, Ketlo said.
She added that box gardens are also easier to manage for first-time gardeners, involving less stress and commitment due to their size.