“Project Snack Bin” is an innovative solution to this that tackles the issue of malnutrition in younger populations and the lack of traditional teachings in Attawapiskat, a First Nations community in northern Ontario. The program is targeted toward employing Indigenous people to help prepare traditional snacks to distribute them every morning at the local schools. A recipe book with traditional foods will also be launched to fund the program and leverage costs.
The community of Attawapiskat, specifically the elementary and high school students are going to be the main people involved in this project. This community is located in Ontario’s north, along the south-west coast of James’ Bay. The demographic that this project is marketed towards are Indigenous people living in this remote community. The hiring aspect of the program is focused on unemployed Indigenous people who have knowledge about Indigenous lifestyles and can pass down this knowledge and tradition. These residents follow traditional Aboriginal beliefs and culture that is unique to the region, and their culture is preserved by the reserve.
Since our main revenue stream is through selling recipe books of traditional Indigenous foods that are prepared as snacks, our customers for this aspect would be people residing in relatively largely populated cities with an interest in national social issues. This is a demographic of people between the ages of 25-50 with incomes between $50,000 and $150,000 annually.
Food insecurity impacts the lives of the children of Attawapiskat everyday. It can lead to poor school performance, mental health issues, and poor eating habits. Project Snack Bin aims to provide people in situations where they cannot meet their basic necessities of food with a simple solution that will lead to great outcomes. Our snack bin can help students focus better in school, help improve academic performance significantly, and also give them the nutrition they need to carry on with their day. All this will be implemented in a non-invasive, culturally friendly way. Project Snack Bin can be seamlessly integrated throughout the communities which provides value in itself -- these communities have never received any sustainable options to solve their problems that are non invasive governmental interventions. Because of the expanse of the problem that this project is tackling and the sheer necessity of such a program in Indigenous communities, the value that project snack bin provides is priceless to the many growing and developing minds in the community.
The customers in this project would have to feel very comfortable with the snack bins and the independence and the freedom the program gives them. With many other food insecurity solutions, the community members are often left without any choice except to obey the government. However, with this initiative, they will have the opportunity to create their own program as they wish, with the funding and assistance from project snack bin. This will allow us to have a very mutualistic and holistic relationship with our customers because they have a certain amount of control on molding the program into something they want to continue, which thus creates more value for the program as a result.
Existing snack bin programs in schools have had profound effects. In some schools where the program exists, 94% of students use it regularly, and at least 34% of students rely on it for breakfast. Increased academic performance has also been observed. However, the implementation of urban snack bins in a reserve could be regarded as invasive and could be difficult to accept. Therefore, by employing Aboriginal peoples to prepare the snacks, their culture and the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action (92, part II) can be respected.
Along with food insecurity, high unemployment rates and poor mental health also plague Attawapiskat. The employment of Aboriginal peoples for the preparation of snacks will provide jobs for the community, and the snacks will improve mental health and school performance among children and teenagers. As the project evolves and grows over time, additional initiatives can be added, including headquarters/buildings for the processing of snack bins, construction of greenhouses for the growth of agriculture, and more.
Recipe books featuring traditional Indigenous foods that are prepared as snacks will also be published and sold, generating profit for the community and for this project. This offers even more employment for Indigenous people.
Our key partners are local schools in Attawapiskat: Kattawapiskak Elementary School and Vezina Secondary School. They will be the areas where this program is implemented, serving as a hub for preparation of snack and distribution of snacks as well. The suppliers of the ingredients will initially be sponsored suppliers such as big name grocery stores who would like to add a corporate social responsibility facet to their name. Potential targets include Sobeys, Freshco, or Metro.
While the Project Snack Bin team has considered many situations to arrive at the current plan, there are various unanswered questions moving forwards. The most pressing one is:
How should we move forward from plan to action?
Project Snack Bin’s team has developed a comprehensive plan; however, we recognize the large leap from a written plan to physical actions. World Vision has thorough experience implementing numerous successful plans, and we hope to receive advice in this area.
The main revenue stream will not be from the snack bin itself, but rather the employees who help integrate culture into the program. The snacks that are prepared by them will be articulated and compiled into a recipe book and sold in urban metropolitan areas, highlighting Indigenous culture and the food scene. The book is expected to have 100 recipes contributed by all members of the community, and is expected to sell for $25.00 retail value. A portion of the profits will be going to the authors, and another substantial amount to the program. The expected sales can be forecasted to 1,000 copies in the first month. Most of the revenue from the book sales will be going toward funding the program to make it sustainable, while a small portion will be taken as profit by Project Snack Bin. This ensures that there is a good and healthy balance between funding the enterprise and profit, which will lead to long term success for all parties.
This initiative will require an investment to start up. This cost will cover materials required for the preparation of snack bins and the initial employment costs of preparation employees. Some major costs this project will encounter include a basic startup cost, which would approximately be $7,000. Some other costs will include material costs for transportation of food, and the money to buy the food, which will come out to approximately $10,000. Another $5,000 dollars is expected to be spent on wages for the Indigenous teachers and cooks for the first couple of months, while other funding is being arranged. Finally, $3,000 is expected to be spent on publishing and distribution costs for the recipe books as well as other unexpected costs that may occur. Over time, the increased educational performance in schools from the snack bin program will add intellectual capital to the economy, stimulating it, and thus generate salaries for the employees in the program.
Project Snack Bin’s team is a group of passionate social innovators who hope to make an impact in the world. Through the recipe book sales, the revenue stream will be the main contributor to the profit. The expenditures can be offset with the sales expected, and the left over can be partially invested into growing the program with a minimal amount taken as profit. Through the employment of food preparers and the investment in students’ education, who will perform better in school and achieve quaternary sector occupations, Project Snack Bin hopes to cause a virtuous cycle in the community’s economy. The initial investment into the whole program will breakeven up to a maximum of 10 years. We expect to breakeven with the book sales within the first 2-3 years realistically. While this seems to be a long time, it is much shorter than technological, charitable, and other solutions considered.
Project Snack Bin believes in healthy food security for all. We are focussing on this particular challenge because as fellow Canadians, we are appalled at the treatment of Indigenous peoples by the Canadian government. It is not fair that in a developed nation such as Canada, there are citizens who are forced to live in third world conditions. Attawapiskat, in particular, did not have an elementary school a few years ago, it only had a black mould filled portables to house over 400 children. Their new elementary school, built in 2014, flooded last January causing it to temporarily close for six weeks. Even with these strides, food insecurity is rife in the community.
We have failed as a country to meet the basic human needs of the most vulnerable citizens. Food prices in Attawapiskat have been too high for too long, and without the price cap, they will only continue to skyrocket. The snack bins will provide additional benefits, especially to the next developing generation. Even though snack bins and price ceilings may seem like small solutions right now, they'll spark larger solutions to this growing problem.
Enterprises such as foodshare and second harvest are trying to solve the same broad problem of food insecurity. However, the problem of northern food insecurity is one that many enterprises have not attempted to tackle. Most of our competition would be trying to solve the same issue in urban areas with more access to technologies and resources. One government subsidized platform called “Nutrition North Canada” was launched to solve this issue. They aimed to supply fresh food to northern communities at a low price or even for free because of the sky high inflation rates that led to malnutrition. While the intention of the program was noble, they failed to carry this on because of the high operation costs. Our program, in contrast, has a source of revenue to fund the actual project in addition to government subsidies. Our revenue stream will assist in making sure the program is sustainable and a long term solution, not a band-aid solution.
Some key principle indicators of success may include quantitative measurements such as statistics. After the implementation of Project Snack Bin, unemployment statistics and mark/graduation statistics will be observed. Their trend will also be able to tell us a lot about the success of our program. The marks and grades of students who are actually benefiting from the program will be plotted and analyzed over time to further support our success. Some qualitative indicators would include interviews with teachers at the school regarding the children’s focus, mental health and performance, among other factors.
Strengths & Weaknesses
Although our team is full of well rounded and skilled members, we have some areas in which we could improve. Our team’s biggest weakness is our lack of experience, but we are willing to learn and grow with our project. This is our first venture into food insecurity challenges and we are heavily relying on our belief in our project to drive it on. Our biggest strength is our embrace of First Nations culture and our eagerness and passion to work for what we believe in. We strive to inject local traditional foods into our snack bins to ease integration into Attawapiskat. This will also allow the community to accept the program so that they can take it over and be self-sufficient when external aid is gradually removed. Our passion is the formidable force behind our project and it is why we’ve considered many solutions and conducted extensive research to formulate this initiative.
While our team thought of a highly detailed plan, some assumptions were made. For instance, we assumed that the snack bins will be widely accepted in the community due to the program’s flexibility and malleability of the different aspects as well. We assumed that we would not receive backlash for the implementation of the program, and hoped that the community will readily receive the program to help alleviate food insecurity. The biggest assumption in general was the one of acceptance, which might be a difficult line to cross. However, because this program allows for traditions to be weaved through it, we hope that it will be eventually beneficial to the community in both alleviating food insecurity and preserving their culture for future generations.
Most Significant Challenge
The most significant challenge will be the integration of Project Snack Bin into the community. With the history of residential schools, many First Nations are wary about outsider aid in the community. It will definitely be a barrier to cross because interventions have not historically positively impacted communities in the north. However, since Project Snack Bin is a flexible program that can be largely changed depending on how the community sees fit, this program is exponentially better than other solutions that have been attempted by other third parties. To further combat this we have conducted extensive and thorough research on the culture and history of the Attawapiskat community to help make the implementation of the program as easy as possible.