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“I feel a big connection to our culture when we take the kids out to the land and teach them.”

A place for sharing knowledge across generations

Jackie started volunteering with the Turnor Lake & Birch Narrows Community Food Centre long before it had a name. It’s in her nature to help out; she grew up watching her parents and sister do the same.

“I like seeing smiling people. It makes me feel really good—so they are helping me out, too.”

Jackie’s there to do whatever needs doing, from helping with meat packs to delivering food hampers to handing out garden kits. And she’s ready to roll up her sleeves in the CFC’s new kitchen—because whether it’s baking bread or skinning a rabbit, Jackie’s the person for the job.

Most of all, Jackie is excited about how the CFC has brought her community closer. “More community members are attending events and talking, laughing together, telling stories. Young people are listening to Elders. We didn’t see this before.”

A community built around preserving food traditions

Turnor Lake & Birch Narrows CFC is the first Community Food Centre in Saskatchewan and one of three CFCs in an Indigenous community. They bring a unique Northern First Nations and Metis perspective to the CFC model, raising awareness of the importance of sustainable, traditional foodways.

The Community Food Centre’s programs are about improving access to food while also preserving and practicing their food traditions. This includes programs like community gardens, workshops on how to prepare traditional foods such as caribou, duck, and rabbit, and land-based programs where youth learn to hunt, fish, and snare.

Shortly after the Community Food Centre began offering programs, local hunters brought six moose for people to fix and feast on together as a community. One of the Elders recalled it as the first time in 50 years that the community fixed a moose together. This feast ignited interest in coming together for meals, and now, these kinds of feasts happen often.

A unique partnership

Since 2017, Community Food Centres Canada has been working with community members in Turnor Lake & Birch Narrows to develop a partnership that would see the Community Food Centre model integrate traditional food practices and teachings.

Birch Narrows First Nation and Turnor Lake Hamlet are located 700 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon in an area of rich boreal forest. These two tight-knit communities consist of 800 people from both Dene and Cree Nations. As a remote Northern community, there are challenges in accessing fresh food due to much higher-than-average food prices and, with only a small grocery store in the community, a lack of food choice.

The Community Food Centre offers a meaningful solution.

“The interest in traditional foods is coming back,” says Rebecca Sylvestre, Program Manager at Turnor Lake & Birch Narrows CFC. “Our kids taste the food from the land and now crave it. They enjoy learning how to prepare, preserve and cook it. We have this land and this culture inside of us, and we’re bringing it back to life again.”
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