Taking care of the land
The food systems of communities throughout Canada’s northern boreal forest are supported by the health of the surrounding land, animals, and waters. Traditional foods – those gathered, fished, and harvested from the land – remain the basis of community food systems. However, climate change is having profound negative impacts on both availability and accessibility to traditional food sources through its impacts on the ecological integrity of the boreal system. This has increased dependency on food purchased through the stores, and combined with other socio-economic factors, as well as the impacts of climate change on traditional food access, has contributed to the rise of food insecurity across the region. This chapter discusses the lack of assessment tools for the complex food systems found in northern communities, and the need for more holistic approaches to measurement that connect food systems, land, and ecosystem health. We discuss research being conducted with, and in, the community of Kakisa, Northwest Territories that highlights a community-driven assessment to understand the health of the boreal forest ecosystem. Kakisa, like many northern communities, sees the health of the boreal forest ecosystem as the most important part of the community’s food system. The well-being of northern communities therefore relies on the resiliency of the boreal forest and the ability of all aspects of the food system to support the overall form and function of the ecosystem.