Coinciding with National Nutrition Month in Canada, Liard First Nation and Watson Lake Community Hospital are celebrating the success of a joint pilot project serving over 600 nutritious meals monthly to over 40 Watson Lake-area Kaska elders 

What started as a joint solution between Liard First Nation (LFN) and Watson Lake Community Hospital (WLCH) to meet a unique community need has grown into a partnership that puts the concept of collaborative care into action. 

Late last year, it came to the attention of the community some elders were having difficulty accessing nutritious meals, especially on weekends. Carol Chiasson, Director, Patient Care and Experience at WLCH, and Soulia Pourabdi-Laukkanen, Health Manager at LFN acted quickly to create a frozen meal program. The program now delivers over 600 nutritious meals monthly directly from the WLCH kitchen to over 40 LFN elders. The meals are chilled then frozen after being cooked, so elders can heat and enjoy them at their convenience. 

“Nutrition is an important part of health and healing,” says Soulia Pourabdi-Laukkanen, Health Manager, Liard First Nation. “These are delicious, healthy meals tailored to the needs of each elder that help improve health outcomes, increase elders’ independence and help them rely less on hospital care.” 

The program has already delivered over 2,000 meals to elders who face barriers to accessing nutritious food such as limited mobility or requiring minced or puréed foods. With March being National Nutrition Month in Canada, sharing the program’s early results is well-timed. 

Quick action led to the program’s success. All meals are prepared and cooked by hospital staff. Because fresh meals can spoil quickly and food can lose flavour and nutritional value when immediately frozen, Liard First Nation purchased and installed a blast chiller in the hospital’s kitchen. This means meals can be quickly, safely chilled before being frozen and still taste great. 

“After a trial run in December and a survey of elders’ food preferences, we settled on a menu,” says Pourabdi-Laukkanen. “Elders choose their meals Monday, have them delivered Friday, and since they’re chilled then frozen, we’re able to deliver hundreds of nutritional meals that can be enjoyed any time.” 

The program, which has been well-received among LFN elders, also has the flexibility to adapt and assist those who might need more meals if their situation changes suddenly or unexpectedly. 

“Community feedback has been incredibly positive,” says Jason Bilsky, CEO, Yukon Hospitals. “The success of the Frozen Meal Program shows Yukon’s community hospitals are much more than acute care centres—they’re key partners in Yukon’s health system that respond to unique community needs and help provide excellent care.” 

A community partnership in collaborative care: (L-R) Bev Lister, WLCH  Cook, Venus Abou and Margaret Charlie, LFN Home Support, package an order of nutritious meals for Kaska elders. 
Venus Abou, LFN Home Support, prepares a weekly delivery of nutritious meals for Kaska elders. Feedback from elders informed the menu items offered, and subscription to the service has nearly doubled—a sign that elders are embracing the program.
Gladys Meinema, WLCH Cook, double-checks meals for Kaska elders. Menu items include steamed salmon with rice pilaf and veggies, roast turkey soup, and beef noodle casserole with veggies—each meal is tailored to the texture needs of each elder.