Understanding Our Food Systems is a participatory, community-engaged and action focused project led by fourteen First Nation communities in Northwestern Ontario.

We’re a passionate team of researchers, facilitators and community development professionals that work to build a deeper understanding of Indigenous food security and sovereignty by allowing the communities and people we work with to determine their own food systems through community led initiatives and projects.

This Project is a Collaboration between:

At the Thunder Bay District Health Unit, we are committed to serving the public health needs of the Thunder Bay District’s diversity, for example, indigenous communities and people.  As part of our strategic plan, our commitments are to:

  1. Become a culturally safe organization
  2. Build and enhance relationships with Indigenous people and organizations

Our focus is on reconciliation through addressing social determinants of health that disproportionately and negatively affect Indigenous people.  Our goal is to build trusting and respectful connections and relationships that will lead to collaborative opportunities that improve overall health and reduce inequities.  One path to reaching this goal is collaborating on the Understanding Our Food Systems project, which is an opportunity to re-establish indigenous ways of life through empowerment and supporting the development of self-determined food systems and sovereignty.

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The Indigenous Food Circle

Following a series of one-on-one meetings with representatives of Indigenous led and Indigenous serving organizations, the Indigenous Food Circle (IFC) was established in 2016. After interest in the initiative was established, two larger group meetings were held to establish a basis for cooperation. An administrative team that included Jessica McLaughlin, Dr. Charles Levkoe, Courtney Strutt and Dr. Lana Ray was given a mandate to establish a collaborative platform to support food sovereignty related initiatives developed by, for and with Indigenous organizations in the Thunder Bay region.

The initial aim of the IFC was to:

To build healthy, equitable and sustainable food systems in the Thunder Bay region, it is essential to make space for Indigenous people to speak about their own food systems. Drawing on concepts of Indigenous food sovereignty that emphasizes our connection to land-based food and political systems, the IFC aims to support and develop the capacity of Indigenous peoples to articulate and respond to relevant challenges and opportunities and to improve food-related programming and policy.

The IFC is rooted in five primary objectives:

Courtney Strutt

Food for Thought

The food we eat is more than just fuel. It’s a part of our identities, cultures and it connects us to the natural world.

When thinking about food, it is imperative that we also consider the social, political, economic, and spiritual contexts of land within our communities.


We work with 14 local First Nation communities within the Robinson Superior and Treaty 9 Areas.