Traditional & Cultural Food Programs: An Operational Guide for Serving Indigenous Populations in Public and Community Organizations


This project was born of the Indigenous and settler team’s awareness that “to deny one’s food is to deny them of their culture” - a right articulated in the Truth and Reconciliation findings. The project initially aimed to develop an operational guide for organizations considering developing a traditional and/or country foods program in health care. Through discovery research and prototyping, the team encountered the systemic nature of deeply (and often unconsciously) held colonial paradigms and policies, and resolved the guide would be insufficient in addressing the issue of increasing Indigenous peoples’ access to the healing food ways. 

The team evolved their strategy to focus on spending time with Elders and hearing from community, sitting with both to better sense the systemic nature of the issue, and to generate insights to inform a clearer path forward. The team convened a group of First Nation, Metis, and Inuk knowledge-keepers and partners for three days on Six Nations territory for a system-sensing gathering. A key takeaway from the convening was the importance for Western institutions to suspend judgement to respect and value the Indigenous worldview. The late Mikmak Elder Albert Marshall’s idea of “Two Eyed-Seeing,” that values both Western and Indigenous ways of knowing, was a helpful framework for the team. The journey continues with the release of a series of videos interviewing Indigenous Elders and community members who emphasize the importance of rebuilding relationships with the land, with each other, and to find place-based community approaches to increasing access to traditional foods. 

The number of Innovator working on culturally safe food and reconciliation multiplied exponentially over the course of the two-year program. Initially only a handful of Innovators had individual projects related to traditional food, and these expanded to include efforts around Indigenous procurement and related policies, and engagement of Indigenous community members in recipe development and sourcing. By the end of the program only a few organizations had not begun to explore food as a pathway to delivering more culturally appropriate care and to working toward reconciliation. 

Read the final deck presented at the Food for Health Symposium below




Kelly Gordon, Six Nations Health Services 

Leslie Carson, Yukon General Hospital Corporation

Kathy Loon, Sioux Lookout MenoYaWin Health Centre

Tessie Harris, Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre

Shelly Crack, Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre

Charlotte Pilat-Burns, Saskatoon Health Region

Dan Munshaw, City of Thunder Bay

Donna Koenig, Interior Health | British Columbia


Melanie Goodchild
Hayley Lapalme