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UBC Theses and Dissertations

From prison to plate : how connections between men in federal custody and Indigenous families impacts food security, food sovereignty and wellbeing Timler, Kelsey


For many Aboriginal communities in Canada, the legacies of historic and ongoing colonialism and the impacts of marginalization, dispossession and racism have produced barriers to meaningful and nutritious foods and foodways. This has resulted in high rates of diet-related diseases among Aboriginal populations. The same factors that impact Aboriginal food security also create barriers to employment and housing, and inequitable treatment within the criminal justice system. Founded in 2012, a prison garden based at a minimum security correctional institution in Mission, British Columbia (BC), attempts to address these correlates of crime and poor health by engaging men in federal custody in meaningful activity; specifically, the growing and subsequent donation of organic produce. The fruits and vegetables grown in the garden are donated to a variety of local organizations and Aboriginal communities, including the Tŝilhqot’in Nation of central interior BC. This ethnographic research, founded in critical social justice theories and the principles of food sovereignty, set out to understand the impacts of the garden on both the participating men and the recipient Tŝilhqot’in communities. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 10 participating men in custody, 10 Tŝilhqot’in recipients, and 5 program stakeholders. Iterative thematic analysis revealed multi-layered impacts for the participating men, starting with access to food and increasing over time to include gardening as a means to figuratively escape the correctional environment, to work productively, to give back, and as a means to begin imagining meaningful futures outside of prison. The distribution of vegetables within the Tŝilhqot’in highlighted a passive coalescence with histories of culinary imperialism, truncating impacts to two layers: access to food and connections with the men in prison. Drawing on the insights of both the men and Tŝilhqot’in community members and the theoretical principles of food sovereignty, decolonizing methodologies and food as social justice, potential ways to acknowledge the legacies of colonialism, increase connection between the prison and the communities, and increase impacts are discussed.

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