CNS is Celebrating 10 years!


Part 3: Nutrition in Diverse Populations

Date: Friday, March 26, 2021  
Chairs: Noreen Willows, PhD (University of Alberta) and Malek Batal, PhD (Université de Montréal)

The barriers to making diets more nutritious are many and often they are systemic in nature, going beyond an individuals’ ability to make the healthiest choice in food purchasing and preparation. Food insecurity - for example the inability to access an affordable, nutritious and culturally appropriate diet - is one such barrier. Food insecurity is prevalent in Indigenous communities and among newcomer and refugee families. For Indigenous peoples, food insecurity is the result of past and present colonial policies and practices that constrain healthy food choices, diminish food sovereignty, and degrade ecosystems such that they can no longer support Indigenous hunting, fishing, trapping or agricultural traditions to the extent that they once could. For migrant groups, accessibility to cultural and religious foods may be problematic, and exacerbated by limited economic resources.

In this mini-conference, two strengths-based nutrition interventions in Indigenous communities will be described that focus on assets, resilience and protective factors among community members. With strengths-based interventions, Indigenous communities drive the process of intervention development, implementation and evaluation, rather than being passively guided by nutrition “professionals”. The experience of food insecurity among two migrant groups, Syrian refugees in Quebec and South Asians in Alberta, will be described and will highlight the relationship among food security and income, as well as the relevance of the cultural food environment. A panel discussion at the end will include food security practitioners working with vulnerable populations will discuss lessons learned and what more needs to be done.

Learning Objectives:

Draft program - Subject to change

Time (EST) Topic Speaker / Moderator
12:00 - 12:10 Introduction Noreen Willows, PhD
University of Alberta
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Malek Batal, PhD
Université de Montréal
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Session 1: Strengths-based nutrition interventions in Indigenous communities
12:10 - 12:40 Syilx-led reintroduction of sockeye salmon into the Okanagan River Basin 
View Description & Learning Objectives +/-


Traditional Indigenous foods harvested from local food systems are important to ensure good nutrition, food security, and cultural connectedness for First Nations people. Colonization, the dispossession from Indigenous lands, and oppressive policies and practices along with urbanization and habitat degradation have resulted in the decline of many traditional Indigenous food species. For Syilx in the interior of British Columbia one important food species threatened with extinction was the n’titxw (Salmon). The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) took a leadership role in ecosystem rehabilitation to restore the Okanagan sockeye salmon into the Okanagan River Basin through a multi-level food sovereignty initiative integrating Traditional Syilx knowledge and Western science.  A community-university partnership was formed to evaluate the nutrition, health and health equity outcomes of this transformative strengths-based Syilx-led intervention. This presentation will describe the process used to develop a respectful community-university partnership that honoured community-based participatory research and ethical research principles. It will provide results that demonstrate that the Sylix food sovereignty initiative has resulted in better diet quality for Syilx who once again can eat Okanagan sockeye salmon that inhabit the region. It will provide examples of integrative knowledge translation activities used to inform community members of research findings, such as infographics and plain language summaries. 

Learning Objectives:

Coming Soon

Rosanne Blanchet, PhD, RD
University of Alberta
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Suzanne Johnson, MSc, RD
Okanagan Salmon and Our Health
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12:40 - 13:10 The Indigenous Youth Mentorship Program (IYMP): a Peer-led Healthy Living Afterschool Program 
View Description & Learning Objectives +/-
This presentation will describe the Indigenous Youth Mentorship Program (IYMP). IYMP is an exemplar community-based, resilience-centred intervention that has successfully improved health and well-being outcomes of thousands of children and youth across Canada. Co-developed with Indigenous youth, educators, and researchers, IYMP is typically a 20-week, peer-led afterschool program delivered by high school mentors for their younger elementary-aged peers. IYMP promotes wellness, resilience, and overall positive mental health, including the Anishinaabe/Cree concepts of “living in a good way.” The core components of IYMP are: healthy eating, physical activity, and relationship building. While essential conditions have been established for implementing IYMP, each community tailors components of the program to meet their own unique needs, teachings, and values.

IYMP utilizes a community-based participatory research approach with a decolonizing lens, and focuses on resilience, social justice, and empowerment. IYMP is a strengths-based intervention to prevent type 2 diabetes that fosters identity and empowers youth, rather than education alone. It is grounded theoretically in the teachings of Indigenous scholars Drs. Martin Brokenleg (Circle of Courage: Belonging, Independence, Mastery, and Generosity) and Verna Kirkness (4 R’s: Respect, Relevance, Reciprocity, and Responsibility). This presentation aims to describe the history and rippling (the team’s preferred term for scaling-up) of IYMP across Canada, and to describe how IYMP honours community-based participatory research principles and practices.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Provide an overview of the Indigenous Youth Mentorship Program
  2. Describe the history and rippling (the team’s preferred term for scaling-up) of IYMP across Canada
  3. Describe how IYMP honours community-based participatory research principles and practices


Kate Storey, PhD, RD
University of Alberta
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13:10 - 13:30 Interactive Q&A discussion  
13:30 - 13:50 Break  
Session 2:  Cultural food security in different migrant populations in Canada
13:50 - 14:20 High prevalence of food insecurity among Syrian refugees in Quebec Malek Batal, PhD
Université de Montréal
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14:20 - 14:50 Diet Quality of South Asians in Alberta Fatheema Subhan, PhD, RD
14:50 - 15:10 Interactive Q&A discussion  
15:10- 15:30 Break  
Session 3: Interactive Panel Discussion
15:30 - 15:45 Setting the Stage: Innovative programs to provide healthy and affordable food to Canadians in need Morgan Allen / Julia Tran
15:45 - 16:00 Setting the Stage: Nutrition intervention in Indigenous communities - Six Nations experience Kelly Gordon, RD
16:00 - 16:30 Panel Discussion  
16:30 - 16:40 Closing Remarks Noreen Willows
Malek Batal

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