Assembly of First Nations Announces Release of Ontario Regional Report of First Nations Food, Nutrition and Environment Study

OTTAWA, Aug. 18, 2014 /CNW/ - The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is pleased to announce the release of the Ontario (ON) Regional Report from the First Nations Food, Nutrition and Environment Study (FNFNES), now available online at www.fnfnes.ca.

FNFNES, funded by Health Canada, is a ten year partnership between the AFN, Université de Montréal, and the University of Ottawa conducted in collaboration with 18 randomly selected First Nations communities in Ontario.

The Ontario Regional Report is the third regional report to be released from this groundbreaking national study.  It contains information on Ontario First Nations' diet, nutritional quality and food security, contaminants in traditional foods and medicines, trace metals in household water, pharmaceuticals in source water and mercury in hair.  First Nations communities were randomly chosen and sampled according to ecozone and cultural area so that the results released in this report will be representative for Ontario First Nations communities located in those ecozones/cultural areas.

This study has found that, at the regional level, First Nations adults in Ontario consume on average 43 grams of traditional food a day, with up to 205 grams per day for heavy consumers.  On a daily basis, traditional food was consumed in greater amounts by adults in northern communities.  Almost three-quarters of participants reported that they would like to have more traditional food.  However, the key barriers to increased use include a lack of time for harvesting; inability to hunt; and lack of equipment or transportation.

First Nations adults in Ontario do not meet the amounts and types of food recommended in Canada's Food Guide.  However, dietary quality was much improved on days when traditional foods were consumed as traditional foods are important contributors of protein, iron, zinc, vitamin D and other essential nutrients.

Twenty-nine percent of households reported experiencing food insecurity.  Household food insecurity varied by ecozone, ranging from 18% in the southern communities of ecozone 2 (Boreal Shield/Northeast) to 52% in northern communities within ecozone 1 (Boreal Shield/Subarctic). The high price of market food is a contributing factor to high food insecurity and the subsequent inability to eat a 'balanced meal'.

Almost all participants (99%) reported that their households have tap water; 16% of households reported having water storage tanks.  In the 334 homes that had tap water tested for metals, there were exceedances for lead in one (0.3%) house and uranium in eighteen houses (5%).  Uranium is naturally occurring in the bedrock of the Canadian Shield and, as a result, some wells in a few communities in Ontario also had elevated uranium levels.  The FNFNES uranium findings have resulted in increased monitoring of the affected wells by Health Canada.

A total of 1241 food samples representing 115 different types of traditional foods were collected for contaminant analysis.  Most of the contaminant concentrations found in the traditional foods are within the normal ranges that are typically found in Canada with no health concern associated with consumption.  However, higher concentrations of mercury (above 0.5 μg/g) were found in predatory fish (fish of higher trophic level) such as walleye, pike, and trout.  Therefore, women of childbearing age as well as teenagers and children should consider limiting consumption of predatory fish to no more than 1 cup per week in order to limit mercury exposure.

Community participatory research has guided FNFNES from the start and all participant First Nations in FNFNES were treated as full partners in the study. The study is currently collecting data in Atlantic Canada.

For more information on the Ontario results and for previously released results for Manitoba and British Columbia, please visit www.fnfnes.ca.

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.

SOURCE Assembly of First Nations

For further information: Alain Garon AFN Bilingual Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 382; 613-292-0857 or agaron@afn.ca; Jenna Young AFN Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 401; 613-314-8157 or jyoung@afn.ca