Peer researcher identities
There are definitional issues regarding ‘peers’ in such processes, and prospective peer researchers are often asked to self-identify as peers within the community of interest to the research (Roche et al. 2011). In the present context, peer researchers were not asked to disclose their experience with food security and food access. However, food insecurity affects a high percentage of households in the region and the experience of food insecurity in Inuit and other small, remote Indigenous community settings often differs from more populous and non-Indigenous contexts. In these contexts, health is holistically defined, transcending notions of the individual to include the importance of family and kinship ties, relationships to the land, culture, interpersonal and intergenerational issues, and impacts of colonialism (Kral et al. 2011). As such, it is likely that each peer researcher involved in this project had either direct or indirect experience with challenges or concerns related to food insecurity and food access. They drew on this depth of knowledge gleaned through intergenerational lived experience to inform the development of the survey and research methodology, which were critical to project success. This would not have been possible without peer researcher involvement. The application of the peer research paradigm to Indigenous food security-related research indicates the need, however, for an expanded definition of‘peer researcher’ beyond those who are most vulnerable and directly involved in the issue at hand. Food security is a social determinant of health, and Inuit
Indigenous food security in Canada 155 health in remote communities is conceived not only at the individual level, but also at the collective, societal level. Thus, issues of food insecurity are experi-enced as a collective health issue - particularly as many of its determinants derive from enduring legacies of colonisation. As such, any number of community mem-bers could act as a prospective peer researcher, bringing their own experience of food-related issues to the role.
While recognising the importance of including a diversity of lived experience in peer researcher processes, the involvement of women in such positions was entirely appropriate in the context of this food costing project. Women play a central role in food production, procurement and preparation within their families and communities. Inuit women, in particular, play a key role in accessing, transforming and sharing market foods (Quintal-Marineau 2019). Interventions that build capacity among women to address structural forces that impact their lives (such as high food costs) have been identified as a priority area for research (Monteith et al. 2020). Among Inuit, food insecurity is experienced differentially by gender, with women (particularly female lone-parent families) experiencing the greatest disparities (Huet et al. 2012). In the current project, the peer researchers were selected based on existing work experience as community nutrition workers, where one of the main activities was leading community cooking circles. This type of activity may tend to predominantly (if not exclusively) draw female applicants. Likewise, due to the centrality of their role in food processes at both household and community levels, the peer researchers were well positioned to report on issues of community food security.
In remote Indigenous communities, local peer researchers can act as local knowledge experts who translate scientific and health-related information into accessible formats, as local champions for healthy eating (Colles et al. 2016). Here, peer researchers brought critical personal and significant professional experience to the project. This includes, among others, professional experience as community nutrition workers, personal experience as residents of remote Indigenous communities and, in some cases, experience as former employees at a local grocery store. Informal discussions and dialogue among the peer researchers, service providers and academic researchers often revolved around subjects such as budgeting skills, community food programme use, and challenges related to employment and familial responsibilities. As described above, these issues will inform ongoing and future community-directed food security research with Inuvialuit communities.
Supporting Indigenous-led food security research and action
For many Indigenous Peoples, control of the research agenda within their territory is a recent movement considered essential to Indigenous governance, self-determination and identity. Enabling community voice and power in informing food security policy is essential. Inuit, supported by scholars and national and international actors (de Schutter 2012) have called for immediate action to support food security in Northern Canada. A key driver of this research project wasto address the lack of community ‘voice’ in publications and public discussion around food cost in the North, something that has been repeatedly highlighted in our interactions with Inuvialuit community members. The participatory food costing approach enabled peer researchers to generate locally relevant independ' ent data that is trusted by community and regional organisations.
Stores in remote community contexts, their management and the quality of the food they provide are critical to the effort to improve the health of Indigenous people living remotely. In the Inuvialuit context, the remote communities have only one or two stores from which to procure food. Moreover, the challenging logistics and supply chain in such contexts makes the food supply (availability, prices and quality) more vulnerable to disruptions and interruptions. As this project demonstrated, multisectoral collaborations between the retail sector, Indigenous organisations and academic researchers have led to the generation and documentation of important knowledge and perspectives about how such dynamics impact the food supply with the goal of supporting healthy food envi-ronments and food security in remote community contexts.
Participatory food costing may be helpful in addressing public discontent about food prices in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region by eliciting independent, internally generated (community level) food price data, and empowering coni' munity members to contribute to addressing an important community issue. As elsewhere, we are continuing to work with regional-level organisations to use this research to advocate for health equity and policy changes (Williams et al. 2012). At the same time, several peer researchers indicated that their sense of empowerment and enhanced engagement in their communities, which were gen-erated during this project, has added to the success of existing food initiatives. For example, one peer researcher described how involvement in the project height' ened her awareness of food cost and availability issues in her community, and expressed a desire to use this knowledge to advocate for change.
In recognition of Inuit self'determination and leadership in decision making, discourse on food security has shifted to recognise important links to food sovereignty (QIA 2019). While this participatory food costing project focused largely on market foods, which comprise a major share of contemporary Inuvialuit diets (Kenny et al. 2018b), country foods remain strongly culturally preferred and inte-gral to Inuvialuit food security and food sovereignty (Wenzel et al. 2016). Thus, the retail sector must be addressed as part of a multitude of strategies to improve the health and nutritional intake of remote Indigenous communities (Colles et al. 2016). Due to the complexity of factors that lead to food insecurity, addressing food affordability in isolation from a more comprehensive plan to reduce Inuit food insecurity is insufficient to effect change (ITK 2017). The peer researchers helped adapt survey tools to incorporate the cost of country food harvesting and to interpret research results in the context of Inuit household structures. Ongoing research is being designed to build on these strengths and further engage the peer researchers in analyses that more explicitly reflect these issues and dynamics.
Meanwhile, evidence is lacking concerning the actual processes that might be undertaken to achieve and sustain multifaceted and coordinated approaches in
Indigenous food security in Canada 157 which Indigenous people are central to decision making about their food system ( Britnblecombe et al. 2017 ). T raditional definitions of food security, and consequent assessment measures and tools, tend to emphasise financial and income-related barriers to food access, often overlooking the less tangible social determinants. Peer research structures offer one approach to support the development of research methods and survey instruments that better capture the complex experience of food security in Inuit communities. More specifically, engaging the voice, knowledge and lived experience of peer researchers will ensure the inclusion of food security dimensions that are not typically captured in academic-led approaches.