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Nourishing Indigenous Foods & Foodways in Schools Initiative

Acknowledging and promoting the richness of traditional food cultures


In both the Northern and Southern regions of Quebec, its Indigenous communities have distinguished themselves by the richness of their culinary traditions. Working in collaboration with various players in the school food sector, many have set up programs specifically tailored to their own communities. Still, the Indigenous communities face numerous challenges when it comes to food. Among populations most affected by food insecurity in Canada, at 30.9%,1 the percentage for First Nations, Métis and Inuit people is higher than the average for all of Quebec (14.7%).2 In the province's First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, food insecurity affects nearly one in four adults living with children, and this proportion is even higher in the more remote areas.

Quebec encourages educational institutions to set an example by offering students a generally higher level of food literacy, as well as healthy, local and eco-responsible foods that include a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables each day, and as few ready-to-eat or ultra-processed foods as possible. But the ability of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people to access the traditional foods that constitute a healthy, culturally appropriate diet is being hampered by the operations of various industries (forestry, agriculture, mining and hydroelectricity), government regulations, recreational activities and climate change.

🎣 What do traditional Indigenous foods consist of?

It has been shown that traditional Indigenous food provides a healthy diet that includes essential supplies of iron, zinc, vitamins (A, B, C, D), minerals and proteins. It's rich in animal protein derived from hunting and trapping (game and fish, in particular), and places heavy emphasis on seasonal berries--strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, blueberries, cloudberries, etc.)

The Challenges

Providing students and school communities with the opportunity to make informed food choices has been shown in the past to build regional food systems and increase food autonomy. Both sustainable and resilient, these food systems promote the health of individuals, communities and the planet. However, Indigenous communities find it difficult to establish solid food supply and educational initiatives due to the fact that, in the past, residential schools have contributed to a climate of mistrust toward school food, because food was previously used for purposes of assimilation and research on Indigenous children.

  • Healthy foods are often more expensive, and fresh food is less readily available in First Nations communities, especially in the more remote areas.

  • There are frequent problems with food distribution and safety, and the local supply of traditional foods is sometimes insufficient to meet community needs.

  • The purchasing power of First Nations, Métis and Inuit is lower than that of the average Quebec resident, and they face difficulties in acquiring culinary skills and practical knowledge about healthy eating.

Our work

As an organization concerned with environmental and social justice, Équiterre seeks to promote concrete measures to formalize its process of decolonization and reconciliation, and to collaborate with the Indigenous peoples. Rooted in the three core values of humility, respect and dialogue, our approach is based on collaboration and co-creation with the Indigenous peoples, and with partners such as the pan-Canadian organization Farm to Cafeteria Canada (F2CC).

That is how the Savoirs alimentaires autochtones dans les écoles project, the Quebec component of the Canada-wide initiative entitled Nourishing Indigenous Foods & Foodways in Schools, aims to support Indigenous school communities in increasing their capacity to cultivate, grow, preserve and serve Indigenous foods (or any other form of nourishing food) to children and youth, such as grown and harvested crops, as well as foods derived from hunting and fishing. The project is also designed to support communities in enabling the youth to learn Indigenous food practices and increase their food literacy.

Examples of activities:

  • Development and launch of a series of scholarships for Indigenous school communities, as well as peer mentoring opportunities;

  • K-12 learning path for educational staff and other individuals working in schools, based on the Food is our Medicine learning path developed by Nourish;3

  • Facilitation of a pan-Canadian gathering on Indigenous food practices in schools, along with other in-person and virtual events, designed to foster relationship building and knowledge sharing.

Our vision

Équiterre is convinced that social and environmental transitions cannot be achieved without the participation of all members of society. Indeed, First Peoples, Metis and Inuit have much to teach us about the relationship between humans and nature. Communities that share their challenges and successes are communities that learn from each other and apply their knowledge.

With this project, we hope that:

  • Schools in Indigenous communities will have more infrastructure and amenities to support food access, preparation, preservation and cultivation (e.g. canning and dehydration equipment, refrigerators and freezers, drying facilities for meat, fishing rods, gardens and hothouses);

  • Indigenous school communities will be able to harvest, fish, dress, grow, preserve and serve more healthy Indigenous foods to their children and youth;

  • Food, food practices, world views and Indigenous approaches will be shared and integrated into daily practices in schools, with particular attention to relationships, reciprocity and connection to the Earth;

  • Elders, Knowledge Keepers, families and other community members will also be able to take part in the activities.

Below: The learning path for educational staff working in schools, inspired by the Food is our medicine learning path developed by Nourish and illustrator Carina Nilsson.

To find out more about Équiterre's reconciliation process

 When you are wanting something to grow, you need to start with the children 

Participant from the Tk'emlups te Secwépemc Learning Circle and the Skeetchestn community

Project history


June - The Équiterre team launches the Nourishing Indigenous Foods and Foodways in Schools Initiative in a spirit of humility and openness to learning. It acknowledges that mistakes will be made, and is prepared to make the necessary adjustments along the way.

April - Approval of the EDI and decolonization action plan at the Équiterre members meeting.


November - Publication of the Web page on Équiterre’s Decolonization and Reconciliation Process.

May - Creation of an Employee guide to territorial recognition.


February and March - Members of Équiterre's food team attend three virtual sharing circles hosted by Farm to Cafeteria Canada to hear the vision of Indigenous school communities' food sovereignty projects.

December - Équiterre wishes to become an ally of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit. To this end, Équiterre is working with Samuel Rainville, Senior Advisor for Relations with Indigenous at the Université de Montréal.


November - Beginning of reflection on a more organized approach to decolonization and reconciliation, and formation of an Équiterre committee.

Members of Équiterre's food team participate in two working sessions with the Farm to Cafeteria Canada team to get the ball rolling on Nourishing Relations.


Équiterre begins working with Farm to Cafeteria Canada (F2CC) in support of school food programs in Quebec. From the outset of this collaboration, F2CC has encouraged the provision of support tailored to the school communities, in the interests of supporting Indigenous food systems.

The project was launched by Farm to Cafeteria Canada, and is being run in partnership with a number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations as well school communities, and is being led by a Collaborative Circle.

We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Public Health Agency of Canada, our funding partners, the Whole Kids Foundation and the Schad Foundation, as well as all the other contributors who have helped make this project possible.

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Visit the Nourishing Indigenous Foods & Foodways in Schools Initiative page to see all the partners involved in the project.

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