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Healthy eating organization thrives

Andrew Rankin
Northern News Services
Published Monday, March 16, 2009

INUVIK - You can't help but be moved by Sangita Sharma's energy, especially when the topic shifts to Healthy Foods North.

"It's amazing that we've been able to build up so many partners," said Sharma. "I have stopped people in the street and not yet have I met one person who doesn't know what Healthy Foods North is."

She's central to the success of the thriving local organization that, through a variety of means, seeks to encourage healthy diets and lifestyles in Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk.

The University of North Carolina nutritionist, professor and researcher arrived in Inuvik in 2006 as part of her ongoing global study that seeks to identify causes of cancer, heart disease and diabetes across ethnic groups.

Her consultation with community sponsors, health organizations and a local nutritionist helped spawn the Healthy Foods North project here in 2008, which has since developed a dedicated team.

Last week Sharma paid another visit to Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk to get an update on the project while holding several community forums.

"These guys at Healthy Foods have done an amazing job," she said. "All the communities are contributing."

She supports eating traditional foods such as polar bear, caribou meat and muktuk, which are packed with food value, and suggests ways to make store-bought foods healthier, too.

"How about putting corn in your soup, adding kidney beans to mashed potatoes, taking dried fruit on the land rather than just grabbing a packet of chips."

With the help of a local advisory committee, Sharma and Healthy Foods North maintains a close connection with the community.

Lindsay Beck, Healthy Foods North project co-ordinator, works with Sharma and said her contribution to the North is invaluable.

"She brings so much passion to the program and she really is an inspiration to ourselves and the communities we work with," said Beck.