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Exploring First Nation Elder Women's Relationships with Food from Social, Ecological, and Historical Perspectives.

Sciprofile linkHannah Tait Neufeld, Chantelle Richmond, The Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre
Current Developments in Nutrition , Volume 4; doi:10.1093/cdn/nzaa011

Abstract: The ongoing negative health effects of colonization have disproportionately affected Indigenous women, who are disproportionately affected by diabetes, food insecurity, and undernutrition. Indigenous women also perceive their health less positively than men do. This article draws theoretically from the socio-ecological model to explore health inequalities experienced by Indigenous women associated with the intergenerational effects of the residential school legacy, specifically related to food practices. Study objectives were to describe and compare the historical context of present-day urban and rural food environments, and explore the hypothesis that food insecurity may be associated with cultural loss resulting from the intergenerational trauma of residential schools in this region of southwestern Ontario, Canada. Framed by a larger community-based participatory study, life history interviews took place with 18 Elder women living on- and off-reserve in southwestern Ontario, Canada. Women discussed painful circumstances of displacement from the land and social disconnection from families and communities. The 10 participants who were residential school survivors conveyed the intergenerational effects of loss, responsibility, lack of support, and an altered sense of identity as narratives of survival. Six women had moved away from their home communities, which created challenges to fully engage in local food procurement and sharing practices. These altered geographies present practical limitations, along with apparent mechanisms of social and cultural exclusion. Research on Indigenous Peoples' food systems requires further analysis of the root causes of disparities in the context of societal and gender relations. Food sovereignty has been the domain of women, who have led movements aimed at both social and environmental justice. Unraveling the historical, social, and environmental determinants of Indigenous food knowledge will support and guide community and policy recommendations, highlighting the ongoing effects of residential schooling and other indirect examples of environmental dispossession that have disproportionately affected Indigenous women.
Keywords: gender / social determinants / Residential Schools / Indigenous health / food practices / food and nutrition of Indigenous Peoples

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