Prior to European colonization, diabetes was rare among Indigenous populations in North America. Rates of diabetes in Indigenous populations have since increased rapidly, and they have now reached epidemic levels in some communities.
A new program was brought to many Indigenous friendship centres to help manage and prevent diabetes in the indigenous community.
“Wiisinadaa: Let's Eat is a food-based diabetes prevention and management program, it seeks to improve the health outcomes for indigenous people by increasing the access, knowledge and skills around healthy eating, nutrition, traditional foods and the traditional way of knowing,” said Sheena Campbell, Wiisinadaa: Let's Eat nutrition support worker.
The program was brought to the Thunder Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre in January, and has seen a great deal of success.
“From the get-go actually, like I said, it’s still a fairly new program, but the moment I put out the first posters on Facebook and the first video, people were reaching out to participate in this,” Campbell said.
Wiisinadaa: Let's Eat services and programs include:
- Life Skills programs (cooking classes, meal planning, label reading, food journaling)
- Land-based activities (berry picking, harvesting etc...)
- One-to-one supports
- Diabetes education and awareness (recipe and information sharing, nutrition bingo)
- Access to food hampers and grocery supports
“Some of the stuff that we do, well, due to COVID, everything’s been virtual, but, we’ve done a lot of cooking classes, so anyone who does an intake with me, and if they want to sign up for the programs, they’ll be provided with all the ingredients for the recipe that week, “Campbell said,
“And they’ll jump on virtually like we are now, and we’ll cook together while having discussions around nutrition and the foods that we’re cooking, and why these foods are important, and the healthy steps that people can make for their lives,”
The program isn’t just to help those managing their diabetes, it can also help anyone in trying to prevent diabetes, especially if the disease runs in their family.
“You don’t have to have a diagnosis of diabetes to join this program, probably, half of the people who have joined don’t, but they do have a family history, or they just simply want to learn how to live healthier,” Campbell said,
“The program offers a lot of tools, and the supplies for people to be able to do that in a safe environment, surrounded by people who are like-minded and have similar goals, so everybody can support each other on that, and it’s lots of fun.”
For more information on the Wiisinadaa: Let's Eat program, visit the Thunder Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre’s website.