Garden Hill fish processing plant has been closed
since 1997 due to limited market access in
Fish processing plant and
situated on two different
fisherman needs a skidoo
and a truck to transport
airport are
islands. A
and a boat
fish to the
Garden Hill has no fish processing plant.
Fishermen need to send whole fish,
rather than filets, to Winnipeg for
processing, which adds to freight costs.
Household Food Survey Shows Food Prices are
Unaffordable for Community and its Fishermen:
Winnipeg based fish market will help fishermen survive
Durdana Islam, Dr. Shirley Thompson, Shauna Zahariuk and Mariah Mailman
Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba
[email protected]
Garden Hill First Nation is situated on Island Lake in the far northeast corner of Manitoba and is only
accessible by winter road, which is typically open for about a month with climate change , and airplane. The
study found that due to the high cost of food people have problems obtaining proper nutrition because they
have limited access to healthy food, such as fresh vegetables, fruits, meat, and dairy products. However,
there are local fish resources to meet prevailing food insecurity that are not being used due, in part, to
regulation and lack of funding. Commercial fishermen are not able to make a decent living due to high freight
cost, control and regulations of commercial fishing.
This study aimed to:
1) Map out the socio-economic nature of food insecurity in Garden Hill communities in general and fishing
communities in particular.
2) Investigate the problems of commercial fishery in Garden Hill.
3) Discuss the potentials of developing a Winnipeg based fish market to foster community economic
Data collection included questionnaire survey, interview, focus group discussions and participatory video. This
poster is the outcome of the food security survey conducted in two phases. Phase 1 was a household food
security survey and interviews conducted by Dr. Shirley Thompson and Shauna Zahariuk in July, 2009. 41
households out of 436 in the community were surveyed. Phase 2 of the study consists of food security survey
and focus group discussion among fishing communities conducted by Durdana Islam and Dr. Shirley
Thompson in April, 2011. A total of 49 people participated in this study. All people interviewed were 18 years
and older. The survey findings were analyzed by Statistical Products and Survey Solution (SPSS).
Objective 1: Scenario of food insecurity in Garden Hill First Nation community
Country food is central to food security of people in Garden Hill, making up between 10% to 90% of total
foods consumed. The survey revealed that 67% of households either hunted or fished, or received country
food from relatives. High costs of foods were the largest barrier to eating healthy (71%), and then freshness
of produce (10%). The survey revealed that:
• The prices of milk and fresh produces are very high and unaffordable .
• 51% of adults ate less than they felt they should, and that 44% of adults were hungry because there was
not enough food in the household.
• More than 9 out of 10 households (93% total with 32% often and 61% sometimes) could not afford to
purchase healthy foods (Figure 3).
• More than 7 out of 10 households (77% total with 35% often and 42% sometimes) relied on only a few
kinds of low-cost foods to feed children (Figure 4).
• More than one-half of households (53%) reported children were hungry, because there was not enough
money for food. Similarly, 50% of children’s meals were smaller than they wanted, because there wasn’t
enough food (Figure 5).
20% often ran out of
money or food and
65% sometimes ran
out of food.
Figure 3. Households worried money would run out (blue),
money did run out (yellow), and they couldn’t afford balanced
meals (green).
66% said children
weren’t able to eat
Photos indicating high food prices in grocery store in
Garden Hill. A Garden Hill resident said, “produce is
sparse and store-bought food is often spoiled [by the
time we get it]”.
The largest store near
Garden Hill is on Stevenson
Island. It costs
approximately $8-$20 by
water taxi (roundtrip) to get
there if you don’t own your
own boat.
Objective 2: Assessment of opportunities and barriers of commercial fishermen in Garden Hill
Many challenges came out of the focus group discussion as follows:
• Fishermen are able to sell only pickerel which is 25% of the total fish they usually catch. According to a
local fisherman Chris Taylor, ‘it is very hard to survive by fishing by selling only one species and we
throw away all the other fishes by the river bank’ as we can’t afford the gas to haul all of them’.
• 75% of the fishes they catch are thrown away because of the lack of market for these species (e.g.,
white fish, lake trout, walleye, suckers, perch etc.) .
• Unlike farmers who receive a discount for gas for agricultural use, there is no subsidy on gas for
fishermen. Gas prices due to freight costs in these communities is very high at $1.55 to $1.80/litre.
• Fishermen cannot process any fish in Garden Hill as the fish processing plant closed in 1997.
• Fishermen must ship whole fish to Winnipeg which have higher freight costs than filleted fish.
• To ship fish to the airport in both fishing seasons (winter and summer), a fisherman needs a boat, a
skidoo and a truck to haul fish from Garden Hill processing plant to the Island Airport location.
• During fishing season sports fishermen from the USA come to Garden Hill, which competes with
commercial and sustenance fishermen. They pay very little or no money to the local fishermen or
community, staying at a non First Nation lodge.
Objective 3: ‘Fish Buying Club’- a potential solution for fishermen community economic development
Fishing could provide more self-sufficiency and local food, as well as a viable income to local fishermen, if
changes to policy and markets are put in place.100% of the fishermen interviewed agreed that creating
market for other species of fishes will help them generate more income and it will also prevent from a huge
wastage of fishes. Researchers at Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba will study the potentials
of initiating a ‘fish buying club’ in collaboration with Neechi Foods, an Aboriginal co-op in the north end of
Winnipeg. Neechi Foods is one of the few organizations that have a fish vending license to legally sell fish. As
Neechi Foods is expanding its operation to a new store, Neechi Commons, it offers greater possibilities for
community economic development to Aboriginal Fishermen in northern Manitoba in general and Garden Hill
in specific. According to Russ Rothney of Neechi Food, “There is a huge and increasing demand for fish
compared to other meat products in Neechi.”
Figure 4. Households with children relied on a few low-cost food
items (blue), couldn’t afford balanced meals (yellow), and weren’t
able to eat enough (green). Of the households interviewed, 15%
did not have children under 18 years.
43% said children had
gone without food for
a whole day.
Figure 5. Households where children’s meals were small (blue),
skipped (yellow), children didn’t eat for a whole day (green), and
children were hungry but there was no money for food (purple).
There is very high food insecurity in Garden Hill: fishermen, although they have means to fish, are not better
off and may have even lower food security due to low incomes. Lack of access to markets in their fly-in
communities are to blame. A ‘fish buying club’ with Winnipeg to ensure better prices are obtained is one
possible solution. Hopefully this will allow the fish processing plant to open, so that fillets rather than whole
fish can be shipped.
More information is provided at “Harvesting Hope in Northern Manitoba” at:
Harvesting Hope: In Northern Manitoba Communities [full length] or short version
Harvesting Hope: In Northern Manitoba Communities Trailer
Funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research Regional Partnerships Program (CIHR-RPP) and
Transmedia and Justice graduate student fund (TJRG), University of Manitoba. We thank to the community
of Garden Hill, Linda Manoakeesick, Larry Wood, Byron Beardy, Chris Taylor, Four Arrows Regional Health
Authority, Island Lake Lodge and Russ Rothney of Neechi Foods Co-op.

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