Nourishing Native Foods & Health

Nourishing Native Foods & Health

First Nations Development Institute recognizes that accessing healthy food is a challenge for many Native American children and families. Without access to healthy food, a nutritious diet and good health are out of reach. To increase access to healthy food, we support tribes and Native communities as they build sustainable food systems that improve health, strengthen food security and increase the control over Native agriculture and food systems. First Nations provides this assistance in the form of financial and technical support, including training materials, to projects that address agriculture and food sectors in Native communities.

First Nations also undertakes research projects that build the knowledge and understanding of Native agriculture and food systems issues, and inform Native communities about innovative ideas and best practices. We also participate in policy forums that help develop legislative and regulatory initiatives within this sector. First Nations supports a regional and national network of Native food sector and related organizations. 

Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative 

In 2012, First Nations awarded 31 grants totaling $905,000 to 29 Native organizations dedicated to increasing food access and improving the health and nutrition of Native children and families. The Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative (NAFSI) grant is intended to help tribes and Native communities build sustainable food systems such as community gardens, food banks, food pantries and/or other agricultural projects related to Native food-systems control. These 31 grants were made possible by the generous support of the AARP Foundation, The Christensen Fund, CHS Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Advocacy and Outreach, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, Walmart Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  

Current Projects

Seeds of Native Health

Seeds of Native Health – created and funded by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) is a major philanthropic effort to improve the nutrition of Native Americans across the country. It encompasses efforts to improve awareness of Native nutrition problems, promote wider application of proven best practices, and encourage additional work related to food access, education and research. First Nations is one of SMSC’s strategic partners in the effort. The campaign builds on localized efforts to solve the problems of Indian nutrition and hopes to raise awareness, spread knowledge, create capacity for change, and develop additional solutions on a broader scale.

Learn more at

In 2015 First Nations awarded 15 grants totaling $523,000 under the Seeds of Native Health campaign. 


AARP Foundation

AARP Foundation is AARP’s charitable affiliate, focused on helping win back opportunity for struggling 50+ individuals and their families. Drive to End Hunger is AARP Foundation’s nationwide initiative to raise awareness and develop long-term, sustainable solutions to hunger among nearly 9 million older adults.

Statistics indicate that approximately 12 percent of all Native Americans living in poverty are age 55 or older. Additionally, Native American seniors often suffer from higher rates of obesity, diabetes and other diet-related illnesses. The AARP Foundation contributed $187, 660 to improve the health and nutrition of Native American seniors.

The following four organizations received funding in 2014 to increase food access and eliminate food insecurity among Native seniors:


In 2012 First Nations awarded $100,000 to four Native food-system projects.

About the AARP Foundation

AARP Foundation is working to win back opportunity for struggling Americans 50+ by being a force for change on the most serious issues they face today: housing, hunger, income and isolation. By coordinating responses to these issues on all four fronts at once, and supporting them with vigorous legal advocacy, the Foundation serves the unique needs of those 50+ while working with local organizations nationwide to reach more people, work more efficiently and make resources go further. AARP Foundation is a charitable affiliate of AARP.  Learn more at



Walmart Foundation

In 2015, The Walmart Foundation awarded First Nations Development Institute a grant of $500,000 to support a project aimed at building the organizational and programmatic capacity of Native American tribes and organizations focused on cattle and/or bison ranching. The one-year project also focuses on improving their management of natural resources, engaging younger community members in ranching businesses, and/or expanding access to new markets. This is the second time the Walmart Foundation has provided a significant grant for First Nations’ work in the area of Native agriculture and food systems.  In a previous year, the Walmart Foundation granted $500,000 to First Nations to develop or expand locally controlled and locally based food systems in numerous Native American communities while addressing the critical issues of food security, family economic security, and health and nutrition, along with promoting American Indian business entrepreneurship.

Under the 2015 project, First Nations is working with selected Native ranching groups or tribal organizations as primary project partners. They receive financial grants that can be used for infrastructure improvements, equipment, training or consulting services to advance their operations. They also receive instruction on improving herd health, improving land-management practices, and accessing new markets. Further, the project partners along with an additional 10 Native ranchers attended the Third Annual Native Food Sovereignty Summit that First Nations and the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin co-hosted in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in October 2015. This will generate significant networking and learning opportunities for the individuals as well as strengthen the capacity of the entire rancher group.

The ranching enterprises that First Nations is working with now are:


In 2011, Walmart contributed $300,000 to help develop and expand sustainable food systems in the following Native communities:


About Philanthropy at Walmart 

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are proud to support initiatives that are helping people live better. From February 1, 2010 through January 31, 2011, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation gave $732 million in cash and in-kind gifts, including donating 257 million pounds of nutritious food to local food banks across America. The Foundation also supports education, workforce development, economic opportunity, environmental sustainability and health and wellness initiatives. Internationally, Walmart gave $66 million in cash and in-kind gifts to charitable organizations. To learn more, visit

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) has been a long-term and generous supporter of First Nations Development Institute's work in Native food systems and agriculture. In 2011, WKKF awarded First Nations $2.88 million over three years (2012-2014) to increase positive outcomes in Native children’s health and economic well-being. WKKF and First Nations partnered to support initiatives aimed at enhancing Native control of local food systems – especially in addressing issues such as food insecurity, food deserts, and health and nutrition – while simultaneously bolstering much-needed economic development in those communities.

Here are our current and recent grantees.


In 2016 First Nations awarded $355,717 in Native Agriculture & Food Systems Grants to 13 tribes and Indian organizations in eight states.



In 2015 First Nations awarded $205,000 to 9 Native organizations.


In 2014 First Nations awarded $400,000 to support twelve Native food-system projects.


In 2013 First Nations awarded $382,500 to support eleven Native food-system projects.


In 2012 First Nations awarded over $436,000 to support eleven Native food-system projects.


About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation 

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, founded in 1930 by breakfast cereal pioneer Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Based in Battle Creek, Mich., WKKF works nationally and internationally, and engages with communities in priority places in across the U.S., Mexico and Haiti to create conditions that propel vulnerable children to realize their full potential in school, work and life. For more information, visit

First Nations Development Institute is pleased to present The Business of Indian Agriculture, a curriculum designed to help farmers and ranchers succeed in managing their businesses. It covers useful topics like how to develop a business plan, how to set up bookkeeping systems, and marketing. It also covers important topics like risk management, personal financial management, and using credit wisely. This project was made possible with support from the USDA - NIFA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the CHS Foundation.

The curriculum has five main modules:

Module 1: Business
Module 2: Accounting
Module 3: Financial Management
Module 4: Agribusiness Economics and Marketing
Module 5: Land Use and Management

For more information about the curriculum, visit the Participant Guide flipbook and the Instructor Guide flipbook. To download the PDF of the curriculum, please visit the Knowledge Center.


Colorado Plateau Food Systems Capacity Building Project

The Colorado Plateau is a large geographic area covering parts of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. The development of power generation on the Colorado Plateau has negatively impacted tribes and Native communities in the area.  In an effort to combat these challenges, The Christensen Fund and the USDA-Rural Community Development Initiatives have each donated $50,000 ($100,000 total) to improve their local food systems and strengthen their economies:



About The Christensen Fund 

The Christensen Fund is a private foundation founded in 1957 and based in San Francisco, California. Since 2003, its focus has been bio-cultural diversity. Under a complex, holistic approach, the Fund seeks to support the resilience of living diversity at landscape and community level around the world in partnerships with indigenous peoples and others. Its grant-making programs are currently focused around five unusual geographic priority regions and selected global bio-cultural initiatives. More information can be found at

About the USDA-RCDI Grant

The purpose of the USDA-RCDI Grant is to develop the capacity and ability of private, nonprofit community-based housing and community development organizations, and low-income rural communities to improve housing, community facilities, community and economic development projects in rural areas.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider, and employer.

Cooperative Education Training on the Navajo Nation

In 2012, the CHS Foundation awarded a $35,000 Cooperative Education grant to increase opportunities for farmers and ranchers on the Navajo Nation.  The Navajo Nation is the largest reservation in the U.S.  This grant will allow First Nations to educate farmers and ranchers on potential opportunities through cooperatives and assess potential models that could be used to assist farmers and ranchers develop farm production cooperatives and marketing and supply cooperatives. These cooperatives are intended to help farmers and ranchers increase their access to agricultural resources marketing and supplies, and also help expose them to the latest technology.  

About CHS Foundation

The CHS Foundation is the major giving entity of CHS Inc., the nation's leading farmer-owned cooperative. As a part of the CHS stewardship focus, the CHS Foundation is committed to investing in the future of rural America, agriculture and cooperative business through education and leadership development.  For more information visit:

Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance

In November 2012, Taos County Economic Development Corporation partnered with First Nations to develop the Alliance. The overall goal of NAFSA is to develop a movement that gives voice to issues of Native sovereignty, food-system control and policy development, and serves as a strong network for collaboration among various organizations engaged in Native food-system control. 

NAFSA’s Call to Action

Restoring Native food systems is an immediate and fundamental need for the continued survival, and physical and spiritual wellbeing of Native peoples and our Mother Earth – now and into the future. The costs of doing nothing – and the potential benefits of action – are massive.

We commit to take collective and individual action to address food sovereignty, and to build the necessary understanding and awareness among our Peoples, Nations, leaders and policymakers, as well as our youth and coming generations, to make it a continuing reality.

NAFSA is dedicated to restoring the Indigenous food systems that support Indigenous self-determination, wellness, cultures, values, communities, economies, languages, families, and rebuild relationships with the land, water, plants and animals that sustain us.

NAFSA brings people, communities (rural, remote and urban), organizations and Tribal governments together to share, promote and support best practices and policies that enhance dynamic Native food systems that promote holistic wellness, sustainable economic development, education, reestablished trade routes, stewardship of land and water resources, peer-to-peer mentoring, and multigenerational empowerment.

NAFSA works to put the farmers, wildcrafters, fishers, hunters, ranchers and eaters at the center of decision-making on policies, strategies and natural resource management.

We commit to take collective and individual action to address food sovereignty, and to build the necessary understanding and awareness among our Peoples, Nations, leaders and policymakers, as well as our youth and coming generations, to make it a continuing reality.

NAFSA’s Emerging Goals

  • Provide Networking Opportunities
  • Produce Educational Materials
  • Advocacy
  • Facilitate Change
  • Facilitate the Connection of Diabetes Education with Food Systems Analysis
  • Provide Support for Food System Assessment and Planning
  • Act as Funding Educator/Conduit/Re-granting/Fiscal Sponsorship
  • Provide Culinary History and Training/ Cooking/ Preserving

NAFSA Founding Council & Coordinators

The NAFSA Founding Council members are:

  • Clayton Brascoupe, Traditional Native American Farmers Association
  • Les Brown, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission
  • Josie Chase, Oglala Lakota College
  • Dan Cornelius, Intertribal Agriculture Council
  • Dana Eldridge, Diné Policy Institute, Diné College
  • Julie Garreau, Cheyenne River Youth Project
  • Terrol Dew Johnson, Tohono O'odham Community Action
  • Winona LaDuke, White Earth Land Recovery Project
  • Jon Matthews, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission
  • Jeff Metoxen, Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin
  • Dave Monture, Intertribal Agriculture Council
  • Loretta Barrett Oden, Native American celebrity chef
  • Tristan Reader, Tohono O'odham Community Action
  • A-dae Romero, Cochiti Youth Experience
  • Elvera Sargent, Akwesasne Freedom School
  • Rita Williams, Mvskoke Food Sovereignty Initiative

NAFSA Coordinators are:

  • Terrie Bad Hand, Taos County Economic Development Corporation
  • Pati Martinson, Taos County Economic Development Corporation

Become a NAFSA member or join our email list to get  updates concerning NAFSA.

First Nations Knowledge Webinar Series

First Nations Knowledge is a series of educational webinars created and hosted by First Nations Development Institute.  The series aims to educate Native Americans who are involved in food-systems work and agriculture, plus those who lead or work for Native nonprofit organizations.  Through the webinars, we hope to build knowledge and skills and, thus, Native American business and organizational capacity.

The webinars are free and last approximately 90 minutes each.  We encourage you to sign up for First Nations’ e-mail list here in order to be advised of any changes or future webinars.  

For the scheudle of upcoming webinars visit