I’m about to embark on a weeklong journey to Nunavut with a group of dynamic individuals and passionate high school kids. The project ‘ Eat Fit – is the brainchild of Paul Finkelstein, Best Health’s food writer, a culinary arts teacher from Stratford, ON who believes in food as a tool for change. Eat Fit has been on the horizon for the last 10 months, and I’ve had a bit part to play ‘ I will be leading the fitness component. We are going to share culture and traditions, cook from scratch, engage in fun fitness activities with high school and elementary kids, and ‘ I’m hoping ‘ build an igloo (my pipe dream).
It was all very exciting ‘ then today, it became a little more real.
As you saw in the news, Inuit go hungry more than any other indigenous population in any developed country in the world. The Canadian Council of Academies found that one-quarter of Inuit children are severely food insecure ‘ of this group, 76 per cent skip meals and 60 per cent have gone a day without eating. Those facts aren’t a big surprise to anyone with knowledge of the North. The ”whys’ beg many questions, and I hope to get a few answers in the coming weeks.
Paul Finkelstein has been to Northern Canada many times. Yes, food security is a huge issue, he says. But what is equally pressing for Finkelstein is that Inuit populations ‘ like people in Southern Canada – don’t know how to prepare food from scratch and rely on ready-made products. ‘It is just like down here in Stratford, where people rely on packaged goods filled with fat, sugar and salt.’ Rates of diabetes and obesity are on the rise in Inuit populations, just like in Canada.
Paul and I have been kindred spirits for seven years. I happened upon him when I was writing about the Slow Food movement. He’s a little famous ‘ having starred in the Food Network’s Fink, and won repeated awards for his work with kids; he’s often referred to as ‘Canada’s Jamie Oliver.’ We’ve featured him in Best Health many times. His mantra, that fool is a tool for change, is similar to my own; I happen to believe that fitness and movement can be tools for change, too.
Nine days isn’t enough time, but it is time to learn from each other, to see the North, to understand about food issues facing Nunavut from a closer vantage point, to be part of a community. Stay tuned for some interesting stories we’ll bring you in the blog: Jenny Hueston, an award-winning photographer will be shooting the trip for her Tumblr blog; I’m planning visit to the grocery store to see how much things really cost up North. I’ll also try to get a snapshot of Cape Dorset, the Inuit art capital of the world, as well as interviews with people who have traveled to be part of the project, like Joshna Maharaj, who in as her time as a chef at The Stop Community Food Centre helped create innovative and creative community food programming. Plus, the kids from Stratford Northwestern Secondary will be blogging on the Screaming Avocado website.
As we pack fleece and thermal underwear and I charge my technology, a flurry of emails, Facebook chats and texts passes around. While five days ago, after returning from Mexico, I wondered whether being connected all the time could be hurting my health, now I feel invigorated. Being a member of a team of like-minded individuals, writing for a magazine like Best Health, who are passionate about this story’it is feels great to be ‘on’ and to know I’m part of something bigger than me.
For that, I can leave my kids for a week.
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Erin Phelan is a fitness trainer and mom of two. She’s a regular contributor to Best Health.