Ontario Regional Report of First Nations Food, Nutrition and Environment Study available

COO Press Release


TORONTO, ON (AUGUST 19, 2014) - Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy says the new First Nations Food, Nutrition and Environment Study (FNFNES) released yesterday highlights the need for Canada to improve health standards in First Nation communities and underscores the fact that communities continue to face significant barriers to accessing safe and healthy food.

"We live a country that is rich with resources and yet First Nations continue to live in poverty and appalling living conditions," Regional Chief Beardy said. "We must find a way to make communities more food secure and lower the prevalence and cost of financially burdensome illnesses caused by poor diets.  Furthermore, we need to continue to educate and communicate the significance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which calls for minimum standards to ensure the 'dignity, survival and well-being of Indigenous Peoples'."

The First Nations Food, Nutrition and Environment Study, a national baseline study of First Nations' people's diets living on-reserve south of the 60th parallel, was conducted in 18 First Nation communities in Ontario from 2011 to 2012.

The study sampled the dietary patterns of First Nations citizens in 18 First Nations communities and sampled local food and water for contaminants. Participants interviewed by the research team also submitted hair samples to measure exposure to mercury.

Food insecurity was reported by one out of three First Nations in southern Ontario, and up to 52% of First Nations in the north due to high cost of food. Groceries for a family of four in Northern Ontario costs an average of $344.00 per week, compared to an average of $175 per week in Southern Ontario.

Contaminants such as lead and uranium were found in a small number of households and will be monitored by Health Canada. Lead was found in deer and mercury was found in predatory fish such as walleye, which are reported to be the most commonly eaten traditional foods as indicated in the study.

Of the 18 First Nation communities in Ontario who took part in this study, seven of those communities had experienced at least one Boil Water Advisory (BWA) during the time-period of this study. Currently, there are 62 communities on BWAs, with an additional four that have been warned not to consume local water under any circumstance.

The Government of Canada has proposed to improve water quality in First Nations through new regulations under the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act. However, no additional funding has been provided to fix physical infrastructure, which is often outdated and inadequate.  

"Although the results from this survey/study provide baseline information that can be used to better understand how to improve overall health of First Nations Peoples, the shocking issues remain; First Nations need safe potable drinking water, access to nutritious affordable foods, and water and traditional wild foods that are void of contamination," Ontario Regional Chief  Beardy said.

For further information on this study please visit online at www.fnfnes.ca

The Chiefs of Ontario is a political forum and a secretariat for collective decision making, action, and advocacy for the 133 First Nation communities located within the boundaries of the province of Ontario, Canada. Follow Chiefs of Ontario on Facebook or Twitter @ChiefsOfOntario.



For more information, please contact:

Jamie Monastyrski, Communications

Phone: 807-630-7087 - Email: jamie.monastyrski@coo.org


AFN Press Release

Assembly of First Nations Announces Release of Ontario Regional Report of First Nations Food, Nutrition and Environment Study

OTTAWA, Aug. 18, 2014 /CNW/ - The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is pleased to announce the release of the Ontario (ON) Regional Report from the First Nations Food, Nutrition and Environment Study (FNFNES), now available online at www.fnfnes.ca.

FNFNES, funded by Health Canada, is a ten year partnership between the AFN, Université de Montréal, and the University of Ottawa conducted in collaboration with 18 randomly selected First Nations communities in Ontario.

The Ontario Regional Report is the third regional report to be released from this groundbreaking national study.  It contains information on Ontario First Nations' diet, nutritional quality and food security, contaminants in traditional foods and medicines, trace metals in household water, pharmaceuticals in source water and mercury in hair.  First Nations communities were randomly chosen and sampled according to ecozone and cultural area so that the results released in this report will be representative for Ontario First Nations communities located in those ecozones/cultural areas.

This study has found that, at the regional level, First Nations adults in Ontario consume on average 43 grams of traditional food a day, with up to 205 grams per day for heavy consumers.  On a daily basis, traditional food was consumed in greater amounts by adults in northern communities.  Almost three-quarters of participants reported that they would like to have more traditional food.  However, the key barriers to increased use include a lack of time for harvesting; inability to hunt; and lack of equipment or transportation.

First Nations adults in Ontario do not meet the amounts and types of food recommended in Canada's Food Guide.  However, dietary quality was much improved on days when traditional foods were consumed as traditional foods are important contributors of protein, iron, zinc, vitamin D and other essential nutrients.

Twenty-nine percent of households reported experiencing food insecurity.  Household food insecurity varied by ecozone, ranging from 18% in the southern communities of ecozone 2 (Boreal Shield/Northeast) to 52% in northern communities within ecozone 1 (Boreal Shield/Subarctic). The high price of market food is a contributing factor to high food insecurity and the subsequent inability to eat a 'balanced meal'.

Almost all participants (99%) reported that their households have tap water; 16% of households reported having water storage tanks.  In the 334 homes that had tap water tested for metals, there were exceedances for lead in one (0.3%) house and uranium in eighteen houses (5%).  Uranium is naturally occurring in the bedrock of the Canadian Shield and, as a result, some wells in a few communities in Ontario also had elevated uranium levels.  The FNFNES uranium findings have resulted in increased monitoring of the affected wells by Health Canada.

A total of 1241 food samples representing 115 different types of traditional foods were collected for contaminant analysis.  Most of the contaminant concentrations found in the traditional foods are within the normal ranges that are typically found in Canada with no health concern associated with consumption.  However, higher concentrations of mercury (above 0.5 μg/g) were found in predatory fish (fish of higher trophic level) such as walleye, pike, and trout.  Therefore, women of childbearing age as well as teenagers and children should consider limiting consumption of predatory fish to no more than 1 cup per week in order to limit mercury exposure.

Community participatory research has guided FNFNES from the start and all participant First Nations in FNFNES were treated as full partners in the study. The study is currently collecting data in Atlantic Canada.

For more information on the Ontario results and for previously released results for Manitoba and British Columbia, please visit www.fnfnes.ca.

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.