Cultivating ReconciliACTION in School Food Programming 

Encouraged by the desire of non-Indigenous school food community members to have a space to convene, share and learn together on their journeys to Truth and Reconciliation, at the beginning of 2023 F2CC embarked on a new knowledge-sharing activity: the Cultivating ReconciliACTION in School Food Programming virtual 3-part pilot series. This post shares an overview of the series including the materials and resources that were explored as part of it, along with lessons learned and what’s next. 

F2CC envisions meaningful school food environments where all students feel welcomed and nourished in body, mind and spirit.  We also acknowledge that Canada’s colonial history includes many traumas created by both residential schools and harms done through food, and many of these systems persist today. 

In hosting the Cultivating ReconciliACTION in School Food Programing series as part of our own learning journey and seeking to open it to others, we set a goal to engage a group of 20 participants. The series was promoted through our Edible Education listserve and not more broadly. Within hours we exceeded our target. We closed registration and began a waitlist. 

Embracing the  Six actions of ReconciliACTION presented by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 – learn, understand, explore, recognize, take action and teach others- we curated the series topics and resources accordingly while considering attendees’ own unlearning, learning and relearning journeys, which were quite diverse. Nearly half of registrants indicated they were just starting their learning journeys; while several others told us “I have heard or attended multiple events/books/articles” about Canada’s colonial histories with Indigenous communities and Indigenous food sovereignty.

Series structure and content

The series took place over February, March and April 2023. One 90-minute facilitated virtual session was hosted monthly by 2 members of our F2CC team, Claudia Páez-Varas, Grant and Evaluation Coordinator, and Jesse Veenstra, Executive Director. Through the series, we aimed to create a safe space to reflect, share, encourage and learn in the school food context. To maximize the experience, participants were asked to allocate additional individual time to review shared materials and reflect on them before each session. Over the 3 months, participants were asked to dedicate a combined total of at least 7-10 hours for both the virtual sessions and personal learning and reflection.

We selected the material shared during the series to guide conversations and inform and provoke rethinking and thinking differently. School food was at the centre of the series while learning about and reflecting on Western and Indigenous paradigms, intersectionalities, privilege and power, critical race theory in school, critical pedagogy, allyship and other relevant topics to practice reconciliACTION in school food were explored.  Below we have provided the materials shared during each of the three sessions in hopes that more people can find them helpful in their own paths. Please note: The series structure and materials are a reflection of where the session hosts were in their own learning, along with what participants indicated in their registration surveys. This list of materials is not static and we expect will change based on individual group knowledge and experiences, and as our understanding deepens and grows. 

Session 1 - Where we come from, where we are, and where we want to go (February 27, 2023)
Session 2 - Land and foodways as teachers (March 27, 2023)
Session 3 - Taking Reconcili-ACTION in school food (April 24, 2023 )
Additional materials shared

Methaphysica: Intersecting Western and Native Ideas video recorded presentation

By Professor Emeritus Leroy Little Bear | 1-hour watching

The Indigenous Title and the Doctrine of Discovery blog post

By Indigenous Corporate Training | 5 min reading

“Showing up in a Good Way” online course module

Introduction module of the Waven Relations online course by the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Applied Sciences and Faculty of Land and Food Systems | 6.5-min watch

Positionality and Intersectionality

By the Open Library

Wheel of Privilege and Power digital document

By the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

How contact and colonialism have affected Indigenous foodways? video recorded

Presentation By Dr. Daniel Sims | 1-hour watch

In Relation online course module

Module 7 of the Waven Relations online course by the UBC’s Faculty of Applied Sciences and Faculty of Land and Food Systems | 6.5-min watch

Wanna be an ally? digital living text

By Elwood Jimmy and Vanessa Andreotti posted on the Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures website | 5 min read

Native-land map website

By Native Land Digital

Native-land 2019 Teacher’s Guide digital document

By Native Land Digital

Why you shouldn’t be afraid of critical race theory

Episode 18 of Don’t Call Me Resilient podcast | 35 min listen

The Dark History of Canada’s Food Guide: How Experiments on Indigenous Children Shape Nutrition Policy podcast

By Unreserved CBC podcast | 15.5-min read

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action digital document

Especially the sections about Education (pages 1-2, recitals 6-12) and Education for Reconciliation (pages 7-8, recitals 62-65)

ReconciliACTION Plan webpage

By the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, University of Manitoba

My ReconciliACTION-Plan template digital document

By the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, University of Manitoba

Land-based Learning Resource List blog post

By Christina Smith, compiled as part of Farm to School Month 2021  | varioius formats and lengths

Exlporing Land-based learning and food system education webinar & discussion guide

By Farm to Cafeteria Canada | (1 hour watch) 

Responsibilities and reflections: Indigenous food, culture, and relationships peer-reviewed digital article 

By Dr. Tabitha Robin Martens. Canadian Food Studies (2018)

What is an Indigenous Medicine Wheel? blog post

By Indigenous Corporate Training | 5-min read

Shared learning resources for F2CC Team & Partners blog post

By Farm to Cafeteria Canada this is a living list of resources | varioius formats and lengths

Who participated? 

Participants mostly identified as educators and community partners, followed by school food providers, school support workers and community volunteers within schools. 

The series registrants came from diverse experiences, and their learning expectations differed. Some registrants were aiming to learn more about Indigenous food and foodways. Others wanted to know how to build meaningful relationships with Indigenous peoples and how to teach students to cultivate those relations and engage students in the ongoing truth and reconciliation process.

The registrants also shared challenges and uncertainties with school food programming and Indigenous relations. Among those, they mentioned how to avoid appropriation and teach in a “good way” in their daily school activities, deal with institutional barriers that prevent students’ engagement in traditional food practices, being a new immigrant to Canada and unfamiliar with the colonial history, balancing a busy work agenda, and how to connect with Indigenous community members in a “good way.”

Lessons learned

During the series, we requested feedback twice. After the first session we asked particpants to answer a short survey to tailor the series format to their preferences. At the end of the third session, we asked again to help us think about what a second series could look like.

The following are part of our learnings:

  • Participants love in-group interaction and want to see more of that, having the opportunity to exchange experiences and engage in diverse group activities.
  • What they appreciated most about the sessions’ approach was the flow, the “welcoming to come in on even ground,” how the conversation’s foundation was set, and the opportunity “to come together and have the space to talk.”  
  • The majority of participants (71%) said the individual pre-work for each session was relevant and informative, and 86% expressed the length of each session was “just right” (1.5 hours/session).
  • Although 28 people registered for the series, only half were able to attend more than one session. We acknowledge how difficult it can be for school community members to allocate time outside of their existing professional and personal responsibilities, especially when offering an activity across Canada with diverse time zones. 
  • Feedback was unanimous that more support and learning opportunities are needed for non-Indigenous people to become knowledgeable and confident to teach about Canada’s colonial history and implement actions toward reconciliation. This needs to be done without fear of doing it wrong, but acknowledging that mistakes will be made and it is how we respond to those mistakes that is part of the process that will help all people in Canada to both learn and heal. 

For the F2CC team, this was a unique experience that allowed us to reflect on our own biases and assumptions and continue to advance our own learning. We are grateful for those who expressed interest and joined us on this journey. We also deeply value your feedback to help improve future knowledge exchange events and materials. We heard that more opportunities to share and learn are necessary and we are actively exploring how we can help make that possible.