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Improving food systems to meet the needs of Northern Ontarians

Posted on October 17, 2018
Improving Food systems

How can we improve our food and agricultural systems to better meet the needs of all people?

Michaela Bohunicky, a graduate of the Northern Ontario Dietetic Internship Program (NODIP) at NOSM, will be exploring this question when she starts a Master of Health Sciences at Lakehead University this fall. Bohunicky will be working with Dr. Charles Levkoe, a Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Food Systems.

Before coming to NOSM, Bohunicky attended the University of Manitoba, where she was part of a team of researchers exploring food sovereignty—the idea that all people have the right to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced using ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and the right to define their own food and agricultural systems.

“Studying food sovereignty and becoming involved in research really opened my eyes to the ways in which social, political and environmental determinants affect nutrition and health, and answered so many of my questions about why people are food insecure and why health inequities exist,” she says.

After completing NODIP in 2017, she took a job as a Food System Planner with Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), supporting existing projects that work towards achieving food self-determination. This experience, combined with her NODIP placements with the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch in Ottawa and Roots to Harvest in Thunder Bay, played a key role in her motivation to continue learning about Indigenous food system issues through her Masters research.

Bohunicky says she wants to specifically explore how improving Indigenous and settler relationships can produce better food policy at a local, regional, national or even international level.

“I’ve been really, really lucky to get to see little bits and pieces of how food can be used as a tool for reclamation and resurgence,” she says. “I’d really like to explore through my research how I and other settlers can best make space for, and support that.”

She also recently became involved in Critical Dietetics, a movement of registered dietitians exploring issues of gender, race, class, ability, size, and creative expression, all in relation to food and dietetics.

“I see Critical Dietetics as a way to broaden our practice by exploring areas that we may have missed in our training, yet are so relevant to our work,” she says. “Dietitians have a unique area of expertise, and bring an important piece of the puzzle, but we can learn so much and really stretch our boundaries by engaging in interdisciplinary, community-based research.”

Her broadening understanding of the social, political and environmental context she practices in has been and will continue to be at the forefront of her research, she says.

“My experiences over the last few years have made me realize how important it is for Canadian registered dietitians to understand the colonial context of the food systems we’re working in, and that we’re working to change.”

 

Read more stories like this one in the latest edition of The Scope.