Participatory Evaluation of the Nunatsiavut Governments Nain Community Freezer Pilot Youth Outreach Program
"Aullak, sangilivallianginnatuk (going off, growing strong in Labrador lnuttitut), is the first project of its kind in Canada focused on bringing together community youth and harvesters to enhance a community freezer program (CFP). The pilot project in Nain includes community members, government employees and researchers working together to build and share solutions to human security issues such as food security, inter-generational learning, and mental health.
Established in March 2011 and led by the Nunatsiavut Government Department of Lands and Natural Resources and the Nain Inuit Community Government, and administered at the Nain Research Centre, the CFP provides the community with anonymous and free access to country foods such as caribou, seal, Arctic hare, Arctic char and even polar bear. Country foods are received either as donations or by covering the cost of fuel for local harvesters who hunt for country foods for the community freezer.
This project is being developed in response to community demand for intergenerational transmission of harvesting skills, values and knowledge, in recognition of the exceptional mental health benefits of land-based activities for youth at risk, and in response to the reported challenges in accessibility to wild foods due to climate and environmental variability and change. Dr. Hirschs role, as a partner in this project, is to act as a research adviser to the project team and steering committee. She brings expertise in terms of ethical conduct in participatory research and innovative techniques in the evaluation of knowledge sharing.
Rachel Hirsch is working with the project team to develop and apply a range of tools (i.e., an age-appropriate repeated measures survey and open-ended trip logs) to identify any changes in the overall resilience of youth by tracking any changes in: 1) self-reported mental health among youth participants; 2) the sense of connectedness of youth participants within the community; and 3), attitudes towards country foods and the self-reported ability to acquire country foods. The anticipated benefits for youth and the community are improved social resilience (mental health, coping skills, and social connections), increased consumption of wild foods and associated nutritional benefits, increased sharing capacity for wild foods, a more sustainable community freezer program, and improved knowledge and land-based skills transfer to youth.