Healthy Living in the North

Northern Table: An Elder’s impact on community food security

Elder Semiguul sits on a boat, smiling at the camera.

Metlakalta Elder Semiguul (Fanny Nelson).

Not having enough food to eat affects one in six children living in Canada. This can impact a child’s physical, mental, and social health.

The effects of food insecurity on health

Household food insecurity” means not having access to food because of inadequate income, and it’s connected to negative health and well-being. Those who experience food insecurity are at an increased risk for health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, depression, and suicidal thoughts [1]. However, amidst these challenges, there are people who are making a difference in building community and household food security.

One Elder making a difference

Elder Semiguul (Fanny Nelson) is from Metlakatla, a First Nations community near Prince Rupert. Metlakatla’s population is about 80 people and it’s only accessible by boat or plane. Semiguul’s parents taught her how to harvest traditional foods (gathering seaweed, digging clams, and picking berries) as well as how to prepare them.

Today, Semiguul regularly takes family and community members with her when she goes harvesting. Back at home, she prepares these foods and teaches others how to prepare them too.

“I teach them to gather and put away enough food to last, so that they don’t have a tough time in the winter months,” says Semiguul.

Semiguul and another person are on a rock shore, looking for food. Semiguul is handing down a bucket.

Semiguul regularly takes family and community members with her when she harvests traditional foods.

Learning from our Elders

Elders have a lot to teach us about how to live off the land and waters, and about values such as generosity and caring for the environment. Reigniting harvesting strategies that have worked for millennia is called Indigenous food sovereignty. It’s an important part of ensuring community members have access to healthy foods that are sustainable and build community self-reliance (community food security).

First Nations traditional foods

First Nations traditional foods are nutritious and some have been used by Elders for generations.

“My mom told me that black currants would reduce a fever,” shares Semiguul. “I have put a spoon of black currant jam in water and it works. The fever goes down. I also gave seaweed daily to someone who had low iron and it helped.”

Respecting traditional territory and teachings

If you want to gather foods from the land, it’s important to speak with Elders or the local First Nation on whose traditional territory you are on, to learn about respectful food gathering practices. For example, Semiguul shares with children, “only take want you need to last from season to season. Break off the ends of the seaweed and leave it there as it is the seed for next year.”

More food security information

Here are some other programs that are building community food security in the region:

If you’d like to learn more about household food insecurity, take a look this three-part blog series on household food insecurity:

  1. What is household food insecurity?
  2. Food costing in BC
  3. A call to action

[1] PROOF food insecurity policy research.

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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Something old is new again! Using an Instant Pot at 80

Adele's mom standing with her Instant Pot.

Food traditions are an important part of healthy eating. Here, Adele’s mom finds the joy in modernizing her traditional baked bean recipe with her new Instant Pot!

I remember, as a child, watching my mother make baked beans in an old brown bean pot that stayed in the oven from morning until suppertime. She would soak the navy beans overnight in water and baking soda, rinse them, and then add all the ingredients into the pot to cook “low and slow” for at least 8 hours. The smell permeating through the house was fabulous and she would usually have fresh baked buns or bread to accompany them. As kids, we could hardly wait for those beans to be ready! Today, with the busy lifestyles of working families and multiple commitments, it’s difficult to prepare foods using traditional methods that are so time consuming. But now, we can have the best of both worlds, using new technology in the kitchen!

New technology makes a great gift

I got my mom an Instant Pot for Christmas because I loved mine so much and she was quite curious about it. After a couple of lessons, she felt comfortable enough to cook with it on her own and she did remind me, “I might be 80 something years old, but I’m not stupid and I have used a pressure cooker all my life!” Uh…sorry Mom. But I digress. So after trying her hand at cooking a couple of roasts using the searing function, and following my instructions to deglaze the pot to avoid the dreaded burn message, she wanted to branch out in her repertoire of Instant Pot skills.

Traditional baked beans: the Instant Pot version

I told my mom that I had made baked beans in my own Instant Pot a couple of times and that they were as good as the original version, but she seemed very skeptical that you could get the same great results in so little time. She was willing to give it a go though! Mom still insisted on soaking the beans overnight, not actually necessary for the Instant Pot, but she believes adding the baking soda helps to “de-fart” them (disclaimer: this cannot be proven!).

Here’s how we made the beans:

  • Dump beans in the pot, add water to just cover.
  • Throw in whatever other ingredients you like best in your baked beans. For us that was ketchup, onions, a bit of cut up pork, salt, pepper, a couple tablespoons of brown sugar and a squirt of hot sauce (my mom didn’t see me do that and would probably not have allowed it otherwise!). We sometimes add molasses too.
  • Put the lid on and make sure your lever is pointed towards the back (non-venting) and hit the “bean/chili” button which sets your timer for 30 minutes. If your Instant Pot doesn’t have that function, hit “pressure cook” and set the timer for 30 minutes. It takes about 10 minutes to come up to pressure, 30 minutes cooking time, and another 10 minutes on natural release.
  • After cooking, quick release the rest of the pressure and voila!

We got yummy, fully cooked, but not mushy, home baked beans that are every bit as good as those that have been baked in the old fashioned way. My dad ate three helpings, so I guess they turned out pretty good!

Lifelong learning in the kitchen

Mom and I have such fun learning new things in the kitchen together, with Dad overseeing and then critiquing our work! They are quickly becoming Instant Pot aficionados, and look forward to learning new ways to make traditional family recipes, that will save time and energy.

FYI, she still packs my lunch in a brown paper bag when I stay in Prince George for work. Sheesh!

Adele Bachand

About Adele Bachand

Adele has been in Operations Management for over 15 years. Prior to starting her career as a Long Term Care Manager, she was a Human Resources Management Professional in a variety of industries including retail, tourism, finance, and manufacturing. She is professionally educated and trained in the human resources field, and has a Bachelor of Administration and Management Certificates from Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology. She continues to improve her education and skills through a variety of methods including communications and team building through the BC Patient Safety Quality Council. Adele has completed the Core Linx Leadership program with Northern Health and the Patient Safety Officer training program through Healthcare Canada. Currently she has taken on a one-year relief position in Population and Preventive Public Health as the Regional Manager for Healthy Settings. This is providing her with a significant challenge learning about Healthy Communities, Healthy Schools and upstream thinking! One of Adele’s goals is to help provide our patients, residents, family, and community members with the safest care possible, while honouring their participation in person and family-centred care. She is also an advocate for mentoring and challenging staff to reach their full professional potential. Adele’s personal interests include gardening, her two dogs, and just about any kind of crafting where she can be creative! She has also become a fan of the adventures of side-by-side rides in the back woods of Quesnel.

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Foodie Friday: Tried and true family recipes

Recipe card for salmon loaf

Marianne’s mom’s well-used recipe card is a copy of her own mother’s recipe. What tried and true recipes have your family passed down?

I am an avid cookbook collector. It all started when I was 12 and my parents gave me a cream cheese cookbook for Christmas and it just kept growing from there! My culinary library has expanded to include pretty much any cuisine, cooking technique, or food you can think of. And while I love to experiment with these recipes, I still have a special place in my heart for those tried and true family recipes handed down to me from my parents and grandparents.

I have many fond memories that involve food and family. Memories like spending afternoons stuffing and folding perogies with Grandma and Grandpa Bloudoff in their little East Vancouver kitchen, enjoying them for lunch along with my grandpa’s Doukhobor borscht, then taking home bags of those perogies and jars full of soup. Or all the canning and preserves that my mom, my uncle, and my grandpa would make – peaches, apricots, and cherries from the Okanagan, green beans grown in my uncle’s garden, and the best sweet pickle mix you have ever tasted. And I can’t forget all of the side dishes that make it into every family holiday meal!

I’m grateful for all of the recipes and cooking skills that were passed on to me. Sharing food traditions is a huge part of forming connections with family, friends, and culture. It’s also an important part of healthy eating and having a healthy relationship with food. It’s something that I draw from not only in my own personal life, but also as a dietitian.

One of my favourite family recipes comes from my mom’s mom – salmon loaf. When my mom was a kid, they would make salmon loaf from salmon that my grandpa had caught and canned himself. I now make it with canned salmon from the store because I am no fisherwoman. It makes a great, easy weeknight meal paired with some steamed rice and your favourite vegetables. Try it out instead of meatloaf one night – it might just become a new family tradition for you, too.

Salmon loaf on a plate

Try Marianne’s family’s tried and true salmon loaf recipe with some rice and veggies for an easy and delicious weeknight meal!

Salmon Loaf

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

  • 2 cans (213 g) salmon (sockeye, pink, or other)
  • 6 – 7 soda crackers, crumbled
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp melted butter
  • pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Mix all ingredients, except eggs.
  3. Beat eggs until fluffy, then fold into mixture.
  4. Spread mixture into small loaf pan.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden and crispy on top.

Tip: Canned sockeye salmon is great in this recipe, but can be expensive. Choose canned pink salmon for a more budget-friendly – but equally delicious – version.

Tip: Add fresh or dried herbs like dill, parsley, or basil, or some chopped green onion to change up the flavour.

Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health's population health team. Her passion for food and nutrition lured her away from her previous career in Fisheries Management. Now, instead of counting fish, she finds herself educating people on their health benefits. In her spare time, Marianne can be found experimenting in the kitchen and writing about it on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.

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