Current Projects

Strengthening Native Programs and Feeding Families

As part of First Nations’ Native Food Pantry Initiative, the Strengthening Native Programs & Feeding Families project responds to the fact that Native Americans have some of the highest food insecurity rates in the United States and that both Tribes and Tribal community organizations are in the best position to address their needs.

With support from American Express, in 2022 First Nations awarded 10 tribes or Native-run nonprofits or Native community groups, which are addressing food insecurity through food distribution, with grants of $10,000 each annually over four years. In total, the Food Pantry initiative will support 48 non-profits or Native community groups. 

Grantees will also work to distribute approximately 5,000 pounds of food, in line with the Food Pantry Initiative goal of collecting and distributing a total of 240,000 pounds of food over the four years of the grant program.

In 2023, First Nations has continued this program with the awarding of 24 additional grants to Native-run nonprofits or Native community groups, which are addressing food insecurity through food distribution.

2023 Grantees

Butte Native Wellness Center, Butte, MT

This project will help increase cultural connection, nutrition education, availability of Indigenous foods, and experience preparing recipes using Indigenous ingredients through monthly Indigenous Meal Kits delivered to participants receiving primary care, behavioral health care, nutrition education, or cultural services at Butte Native Wellness Center.

Fast Blackfeet, Browning, MT

This project will increase access to foods that fit a traditional Blackfeet diet. The project leverages FAST Blackfeet’s ability to educate community members on healthy and traditional eating through the Ō´yō´•ṗ´ (We Are Eating) Food Pantry and other programs. This contributes to long-term food insecurity prevention in the Blackfeet Nation.

Ho-Chunk Housing & Community Development Agency, Tomah, WI

This project will increase agricultural education, creating alternative food sources in five low-income HoChunk villages. It will increase the number of year-round workshops and training on cultivating, harvesting, and processing traditional foods. It leverages tribal resources to combat food insecurity and offers food sovereignty to promote self-sufficiency and cultural heritage pride.

Hozho Voices of Healing Center, Inc., Crownpoint, NM

This project will create 20,000 square feet of new gardening space that will be used to grow traditional and non-traditional foods organically, which will greatly increase the availability of fresh vegetables in eastern agency on the Navajo Nation.

Meskwaki Food Sovereignty Initiative & Local Foods, Tama, IA

The project will utilize continued access to local foods through local procurement, increasing food sovereignty of the tribe, and agricultural education efforts. It also leverages existing tribal assets to increase healthier food options for indigenous students, who live in a community with high rates of diabetes and other diet-related illnesses.

Nalwaoodi Denzhone Community, Globe, AK

This project will create opportunities for tribal members to access traditional foods through the tribal food pantry. It also leverages food insecurity data collected via a food sovereignty assessment, which showed there were high rates of food insecurity in the community, but also members who were well versed in traditional food propagation and preparation.

Native American Community Board, Lake Andes, SD

This project will reduce Yankton Sioux food insecurity and promote food sovereignty by leveraging existing services (food pantry, monthly drive-up food boxes, children’s backpack food, and food distribution). A newly created element will increase food sovereignty through community classes teaching families how to establish and maintain a garden and how to preserve (can/dehydrate) foods.

Northwest Indian Community Development Center, Bemidji, MN

This project will create a process within the current program to increase accessibility to more traditional, nutritious, and healthy foods to distribute to community members. This will contribute to a healthier community and reduce food insecurity. The project will continue members’ SNAP applications and compound as a healthy food source.

Ohero:kon, Akwesasne, NY

This project will create additional opportunities for capacity building among the Agriculture Program staff to better serve the food needs of the community as well as increase the health, wellbeing, and quality of the program’s two flocks of laying hens for the egg program.

Painted Desert Demonstration Project, DBA, The Star School, Flagstaff, AZ

This project will help support the ongoing food distribution with fresh vegetables and fruit along with tribal food boxes every first Friday at our school serving the surrounding community, mainly the Navajo Nation. It will also help distribute tribal food boxes to our students through the school bus system.

Pascua Yaqui Tribe Charitable Organization, Tucson, AZ

The food security and nutritional support program is designed to create sustainable solutions for vulnerable communities. By developing and originating initiatives, we aim to increase access to nutritious food, retain food resources, utilize local capacity, control decision-making processes, and leverage partnerships to ensure long-term well-being and resilience.

Port Gamble S’klallam Tribe, Kingston, WA

Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe will increase its food bank availability of fresh produce and low-sodium options for health deficiencies and dietary restrictions. This will be achieved by purchasing $9,590 worth of traditional fresh food, and 192 reusable freezer bags plus three storage totes totaling $410 to maximize produce shelf-life.

Salamatof Native Association Inc., Kenai, AK

The purpose of the project is to increase access to local food where many people struggle with food security. SNAI will acquire locally sourced and harvested food, and process, package, and distribute the food to households in need in the Salamatof service area.

Santa Fe Indigenous Center, Santa Fe, NM

This project will retain food access through bi-weekly food distributions and will increase opportunities to share food sovereignty approaches in urban and rural Indigenous communities with traditional food systems knowledge and locally grown food products.

Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians, Lakeport, CA

Scotts Valley aims to create a food pantry to cultivate a valuable community asset, providing essential food resources to those in need while also building capacity to better address and alleviate food insecurity through a pantry inspired by healthy foods traditional to a Native diet.

Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe of Shoalwater Bay Indian Reservation, Tokeland, WA

This project will increase the efficiency of produce production through the purchase of advanced gardening equipment, while also creating a new poultry harvesting program to supplement a garden.

Sicangu Community Development Corporation, Mission, SD

This project will provide funding for the Wakanyeja Tokeyahci Lakota immersion school to source local and traditional ingredients to be used in daily meals at the school. It will develop healthy eating habits among elementary-age children and their families.

Texas Tribal Buffalo Project, Waelder, TX

This project will utilize a mobile freezer unit to distribute buffalo meat, and essentially increase the availability of traditional food sources across Texas Indigenous communities.

Three Sisters Native Farmers Collaborative, Albuquerque, NM

Through the Changing Women Initiative, the organization will increase the access that Native American and Indigenous birthing families have to traditional foods, without the barriers. Leveraging funding in this way supports the wellness of their growing babies, reinforces their relationship with the land, and addresses food insecurity.

Tyonek Tribal Conservation District, Anchorage, AK

This project will leverage existing assets of the Tyonek Grown program to increase food production, healthy food access, and knowledge of gardening and traditional food harvesting by creating a Tyonek Garden Club. Community members will be provided with garden space, seeds and tools, educational support, and knowledge-sharing.

United American Indian Involvement, Inc., Los Angeles, CA

This project will increase UAII’s capacity to provide food to the urban Native population in Los Angeles and allow for the creation of a food-distribution program harkening back to the organization’s roots in 1974 Skid Row, where UAII started as a haven for the most vulnerable members of the community.

Urban Inter-Tribal Center of Texas, Dallas, TX

The Tribal Food Program will increase the number of Native Americans with access to healthy and traditional foods through the tribal food pantry. The project will also create new intergenerational learning opportunities for Native youth and families within the community kitchen, one of the few for Indigenous people in Texas.

Wambli Ska Society, Rapid City, SD

The Indigenous food pantry program seeks to create a sustainable source of nourishment, retain traditional food practices, and increase community involvement to better utilize and control resources, ensuring increased access to culturally significant foods while leveraging support for the community’s wellbeing.

Zuni Youth Enrichment Project, Zuni, NM

This project will assist in increasing equitable access to healthy food while increasing food security to help leverage the reduction of health disparities through the use of innovative food distribution, family kits, food sovereignty education, and the creation of a community food pantry for famished youth and families of Zuni.

2022 Grantees

Santa Fe Indigenous Center, Santa Fe, NM

Santa Fe Indigenous Center (SFIC) food distribution efforts have made a difference in the lives of the Indigenous population. The drive-up food distributions address food insecurity by adding access to healthy and traditional. SFIC partners with the food depot and local Native farms, including Trujillo Farms of Nambe Pueblo and Tesuque Pueblo farms, to provide local foods grown in the Southwest (e.g., blue corn, posole, chicos, chili, squash and herbs) to Native individuals and families. 

Arlee Community Development Corporation, Arlee, MT

The Arlee Community Development Corporation’s program provides critical steps in strengthening Indigenous food systems and community health. The corporation provides food gathering, preparation and preservation workshops. These efforts are led by cultural practitioners and elders after two generations of lost food processes due to the impacts of residential and boarding schools in this Native community. Living in reservation systems and use of non-Native foods interrupted the traditional foods and systems contributing to today’s health issues and disparities. This funding helps build on existing infrastructure and programming to move quickly toward healthy food sustainability for the tribal community.  

People’s Food Sovereignty Program, Ronan, MT

The People’s Food Sovereignty Program will implement this program by continuing to support tribal hunters and implementing the farmer, rancher, landowner hunts. In previous years, the program harvested 2,400 pounds of meat. This year, they plan to double their capacity for the upcoming year’s distribution. They plan to implement a dry meat program to reduce the frozen and warehouse storage space and carbon footprint, and increase the shelf life of distributions. The program partners with Montana State University, the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, and the Chef Ann Foundation to assist in food safety plan development, recipe creation, and meal program development. 

Sicangu Community Development Corporation, Mission, SD

The Wolakota Buffalo Range is the world’s largest Indigenous operated bison herd. Located in Rosebud, its goal is to regenerate Indigenous ecosystems, and it has converted more than 20,000 acres of tribal land from cattle to buffalo. The “Being a Good Relative: Sicangu Foods Initiative” will support the purchase and processing of three buffalo from Wolakota; two of these buffalo will be field harvested by staff and farm apprentices, and one will be processed via a nearby meat locker. All of the meat will be donated to community members via the Mobile Market. Along with the meat, community members will receive recipes that will include nutritional and cultural information, including the creation story and different uses of bison such as tools, clothing, and shelter. Increasing access to buffalo meat—the central component of their Native diet—is essential to improving the health of the community.

 

Spirit of the Sun, Denver, CO

Since the Food Share program has now been running for two years strong, Spirit of the Sun has an established process in place to distribute food at an efficient standard. The program collects surveys before and during distribution to calculate both qualitative and quantitative responses from clients. Spirit of the Sun is also in the process of creating a post survey for community members to receive feedback on the Food Share boxes, whether they enjoy the variety of produce, and how the organization can better serve them. Currently, Spirit of the Sun is still enforcing the Food Share program as a no-contact distribution and delivery service to help keep the elderly and other vulnerable members in the community safe.

 

Ohe.laku Among the Cornstalks, Oneida, WI

Ohe.laku Among the Cornstalks has dedicated the past five years to learning how to cooperatively cultivate Tuscarora White Corn, a flint corn that requires processing to make edible. Working together has produced an abundance. Many co-op members now have hundreds of pounds of corn in storage. The next challenge is addressing access to processing equipment on the reservation. This project enables Ohe.laku to tackle that challenge together to produce roasted corn flour, a mainstay traditional food that will feed families, and fortify food distribution programs serving tribes in Wisconsin.

Lakota Wellness Society, Parmelee, MT

The Lakota Wellness Society’s grant project will address food insecurity in their community by distributing 5,000 pounds of food to 100 Indigenous multi-generational households. A community garden will also be planted inside a chain link fence to protect the food. Produce harvested from the garden will be included in the food distribution.

Chugach Regional Resources Commission, Anchorage, AK

In Chugach Regional Resource Commission’s hydroponic greenhouse, food is grown in vertical towers without soil. This allows huge amounts of food to be produced in small geographic areas. In fact, the hydroponic greenhouse uses less land than traditional farming methods. And a desert climate isn’t a problem either. Even though this growing method uses water alone for growing, there is no run-off and very little evaporative waste, so crops need 98% less water than on traditional farms. Produce grown in hydroponic systems will help tribal community members access fresh vegetables in remote locations.

American Indian Center Inc., Chicago, IL

The American Indian Center (AIC) continues to address food insecurity in the Chicago community with their Indigenous food box distribution, cooking workshops, and a future community garden. During the past two years, AIC witnessed the harsh impact of the pandemic on families in their community that lost relatives and loved ones, as well as jobs and income. This directly affected their access to food. Food insecurity is not a new condition, but the pandemic highlighted how many community members were in need of food. 

Paʻupena Community Development Corporation (CDC), Kula, HI

The Paʻupena Community Development Corporation (CDC)  project will provide boxes of locally grown fruits and vegetables, including traditional food. This project will benefit Native Hawaiian communities by providing to families fresh food, including fruit, vegetables, honey, jam, tea, eggs, and meat. Families will also receive Indigenous Native Hawaiians foods, such as poi, kalo and ulu. This program will lessen the financial stress for Native Hawaiian families to not have to choose between paying for rent, utilities, and medical bills, and being able to provide more nutritious foods for their families.