Implementation of the Learning Circle: Local Food to School Initiative in the Island Communities of Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada—a Descriptive Case Study

Elsevier, Current Developments in Nutrition, Volume 6, June 2022
McEachern L.W., Yessis J., Yovanovich J., Crack S., Zupko B., Valaitis R. et al.

Background: Indigenous communities in Canada are concerned about long-term food sovereignty and the reclamation of traditional food-related skills among their people. Learning Circles: Local Food to School (LF2S) was an innovative community-based project that worked to promote multisectoral partnerships, focused on food. Guided by a facilitator, the Learning Circle (LC) brought together interested community members to plan and implement activities aimed at enhancing access to local, healthy, and traditional foods for school communities. Objectives: The article describes the context, process, and food-related outcomes of the LC in Haida Gwaii (HG), British Columbia, Canada and evaluates perceptions of the transition in local food systems, food literacy, and community capacity associated with the LC. Methods: The sources that were gathered between 2016 and 2018 included annual semidirected interviews with community members and the Learning Circle Coordinator (LCC) (n = 24), process reporting (e.g., reports, conference calls, food sourcing and tracking data) (n = 62 documents), and photographs (n = 75). Data were analyzed thematically. Results: HG has a rich food environment and a vibrant local and traditional food culture. A variety of local food-related activities had been taking place before the launch of the LC in 2013, and by 2016 the initiative was firmly established. Between 2016 and 2019, activities in HG focused on schools (e.g., sourcing local, healthy food and developing traditional skills through schools) and pioneering local food pantries. Participants valued increased access to local and traditional foods and opportunities to build youth knowledge and skills. Noted successes of the LC process included transitioning to Haida leadership and fostering relationships. Conclusions: The inherent flexibility of the LC model means that communities can prioritize activities of interest. The evolution of the LC model in HG is an inspiration for other communities working to enhance food sovereignty. Curr Dev Nutr 2022;6:nzac090.